Tomorrow night, we face Chivas USA to end out our regular season campaign. On a Wednesday - when everyone else is playing on a Saturday or Sunday. Now, I get that MLS scheduling is a tricky bag, and that we have an odd number of teams, so in a sense it's inevitable, but it's a bit silly that not all of these matches kick off at the same time. Anyway, if results go our way, we could be in first overall by the end of the weekend, or we could be fourth in the West.
We're playing one of the worst teams in MLS, so surely that bodes well for our chances. But we should also keep in mind that Portland also plays Chivas for their final match, meaning positioning in the Western Conference could be down to the basement-dwellers of the conference. (Not that they literally dwell in a basement, but it might be apt to describe them as living in LA Galaxy's basement.)
With Javier Morales potentially back in the side, RSL takes on a more stable form. Luis Gil, for all his development and improvement, is still well below the level of playmaker Javier Morales. Gil will almost certainly return to the right side of the diamond, with Morales taking up the playmaker spot once again. Kyle Beckerman should return to his defensive midfield position, and Ned Grabavoy almost certainly continues.
The most interesting battle seems to have emerged at right back: Kreis will be forced to decide between Lovel Palmer and Tony Beltran for the spot, with Chris Kamrani of the Salt Lake Tribune (https://twitter.com/chriskamrani) reporting today that Kreis described Beltran as having "slipped a little bit." Beltran has played through most of the season and has played considerable minutes in his RSL career (over 11,000 since he arrived through the draft in 2008). This is the first season in which he was first choice and there was true competition for his place - the ascendence of Lovel Palmer from Portland-scapegoat to a steady RSL presence has been a remarkable one - and it will be interesting to see how he has responded to being dropped, if just for a match.
The other interesting battle to emerge is up front: Robbie Findley put in a workman's shift on Saturday and was one of the few attacking threats we saw throughout. He and Joao Plata have a fascinating battle for minutes on hand, but it's one that rarely excludes either. More than anything, it's for the starting spot, which is made more important tactically by the increasingly defensive stances teams take heading into the playoffs. But against Chivas tomorrow, either is likely a strong option.