With Friday's match against Seattle Sounders quickly approaching, there's a distinct possibility that Real Salt Lake could be with their preferred starting lineup for only the fourth time in 2012. If they're so fortunate, a side question crops up: What of the players on the periphery? Some of them could have a big impact on the proceedings.
The sparky midfielder has looked ever more promising in an RSL kit, wowing fans late during the last few games - including a last-minute shot against Seattle that was craftily saved. He's clearly not the finished product yet, and he doesn't seem to meter his energy particularly well - but for a rookie, he's looked immense. Jason Kreis notoriously doesn't give rookies much time on the pitch, but this kid's earned it.
If RSL has to look for a goal late on, expect to see Velasquez thrust into the fray. WIth his dribbling ability and sense for positioning, he could make the impact he's been desperate to all season - especially after forcing a goal in the first match of the season against LA Galaxy.
He's also a very possession-oriented player, and though he'll take risks on the ball, he's not the sort to look for a through pass - say, like Javier Morales would. As such, he might also be considered useful for that skill set, too - though the conditions that lead to that would have to be a bit more dire. There's a growing sense that he could be more fit for the tip of the diamond than, say, Luis Gil, who has impressed from a bit deeper position.
Paulo Jr. hasn't been scoring goals this season, but he has been creating chances. Whether this is down to a proclivity for cut-backs in the box or for some other reason, I don't know. If he's able to find his pace, which seems to have been stowed away through most of the season, RSL could nick a late goal on a counter.
Paulo only has 17 minutes in playoff action, and that came back in 2010. It may be quickly becoming a time of do-or-die for the striker - not to be alarmist - and a strong showing in the playoffs could be essential. At least for the player, he'll want to get on and do good work, but with Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio both raring to go, he'll have a bit of an uphill battle.
Luis Gil is a hard player to understand at times. He shows such promise in the tip of the diamond one week, then the next week, he's just letting play pass him by. In recent weeks, he's shown quite well - but he's also been used more as a replacement for Ned Grabavoy than anything. His passing and movement is all good, and in a position that requires less demanding a player, he's thrived.
Whether that's because he's simply better in that position at this point in his career, or whether he's coming into a rich vein of form, it's clear that Jason Kreis likes him in that spot. With Ned Grabavoy coming back into the side and if Javier Morales is sufficiently recovered from illness, it's likely that Luis Gil will end up on the bench from the start, but there would be no surprise to see him come on to provide a bit more in attack.