Yeah I know typing in all caps is both annoying and usually not something I do, but this match on Friday is HUGE!!! Yes it was wrong this time too. If you think about the schedule of Real Salt Lake both in Major League Soccer and in CONCACAF Champions league, well you will see how huge(yeah, I didn't do it a third time). this match on Friday is.
First you have the Vancouver Whitecaps who on Sunday beat the top team in the West and now are just 5 points behind RSL in the standings, a gap that could either grow to 8 or shrink to 2 on Friday night. With just 12 MLS matches left in the regular (yes the season doesn't end until the end of October), and just 5 more home matches, every point gets bigger and bigger. With just 12 more MLS matches left in the regular season, and only 5 home league matches left every point at home is very important as while making the playoffs might not be in question for RSL at this point but making sure you are in one of those top 3 spots (avoiding the play in match) is well, huge.
The Whitecaps are a tough opponent getting 6 results on the road so far (3-5-3) and with their recent additions to their roster have shown they have the talent to play with anyone, so much talent that they have traded away both Sebastian Le Toux and Eric Hasslie within the last couple of weeks. They have added Barry Robson, Dane Richards, and Kenny Miller to go along with Darren Mattocks, who with 6 goals in just 775 minutes is making himself one of the favorites for MLS Rookie of the Year.
more thoughts after the jump:
Now staying focused on the task at hand seems to have caused RSL some issues in US Open Cup this year, so while RSL will be starting group play in Champions League in less than a week, they need to keep focused on the task at hand which will be beating the Vancouver Whitecaps. This also presents a great chance to build some consistency, which has been lacking since the Open Cup loss, with so much on the line in a match against a team fighting for positioning within the Western Conference it should be a great chance for RSL to send a message to both the fans, themselves, and the rest of the league.
It is also worth mentioning that RSL will be heading north to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps again in just over two weeks from Fridays match, on August, 11th so this will be a good chance to get some minutes against a team that we will have to deal with again in just a couple weeks.
Then of course their is the reality that Champions League is just around the corner, and while it would be wrong to think of the Whitecaps as a tune up match for our match next week in Costa Rica against Herediano, you have to wonder if that hasn't crept into the minds of some. Still I have to expect that the distractions of the All Star match, lots of friendly matches, and other going ons around MLS won't have too much of an impact on the team. At practice on Tuesday everyone looked focused on the task at hand.
It is kinda strange that this is the first RSL match since 2005 that I have chosen to miss, the other 4 have been because of illness or other issues, but this one I will be in Washington DC for, watching it online or somewhere as I get ready to check out Liverpool vs. Tottenham on Saturday afternoon. I expect a full crowd at Rio Tinto will more than make up for my absence.
OFF MY SOAPBOX