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10 + 3 matches to go for Real Salt Lake, what to expect.

Can Real Salt Lake rebound over their last 10 matches and find a way to recreate this moment once again?
Can Real Salt Lake rebound over their last 10 matches and find a way to recreate this moment once again?

So Real Salt Lake has 10 regular season MLS matches left in the regular season, and 3 matches in Champions League group play, so what should/can fans expect from the team? This is a very fair question, and as I talked about in my last post the team is just 4-5-1 in their last 10 MLS matches, and despite those lower than expected numbers they find themselves still in the hunt for the top spot in the Western Conference as well as the top spot in all of MLS.

So what can we honestly expect from the team? We know that last year RSL sucked down the stretch, and we know there were several reason why, injuries, suspension, and such. RSL's schedule last year had 13 league matches during the same time period they will play their final 10 this year, last year 4 of their final 10 matches were at home, and this year it will be the same with 4 of their last 10 matches at home. The wildcard could be the addition of the Champions League matches which means RSL will end up playing 13 matches over that same time stretch as their final league matches of last year. One advantage is of those 3 CCL matches two will be played a Rio Tinto.

So if we look at last years final 10 league matches, RSL won just 3 matches, they had 2 draws in their final two matches and they lost 5 matches, including 3 matches by 3 goal deficits. As we said RSL was dealing with some issues, Javier was just coming back from injury and nowhere near form, we lost Kyle Beckerman for several matches due to his headbutt and national team call ups, and we had a lot of rotation for minor injuries. We know that it is unlikely that we will have do deal with Javier coming back from a 6 month layoff, or that Kyle will lose his cool and headbutt someone again, but it is very likely with the injury to Jamison Olave as well as other players picking up minor injuries during the next two plus months.

A closer look at the next 10 +3 matches after the jump:

So I thought I would take a very quick look at the rest of the schedule:

Real Salt Lake @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC

11 Aug, 5:00 PM

A big match with huge implications at the top of the Western Conference. RSL will have to find a way to deal with the speed and attacking style of the Whitecaps, a team they could well face again in the playoffs. My Pick 2-2 draw

FC Dallas @ Real Salt Lake

18 Aug, 7:00 PM

This is a match that RSL should be able to get a win in, FC Dallas has struggled a lot over the last couple months but are always a dangerous team. This one also could be impacted by US vs. Mexico on the 15th. My Pick 2-1 RSL win

Real Salt Lake @ Philadelphia Union

24 Aug, 5:30 PM

The Union have struggled all season with roster turnover and then a midseason coaching change, they are 5-4-1, so this is a road match that RSL has to look at as a big chance to get a result away from home. This comes 3 days after our CCL match at home with Tauro FC. My Pick 2-1 RSL win.

D.C. United @ Real Salt Lake

1 Sep, 7:00 PM

I think this is the biggest and toughest match that remains for RSL this year, while DC has struggled on the road this year, they are one of the top teams with a huge weapon in Dwayne De Rosario, if RSL can win this one it sends a real message. My Pick 1-1 draw

Real Salt Lake @ Houston Dynamo

6 Sep, 6:30 PM

Nobody wants to play in Houston in the dog days of summer, but that is what we will have to do and the Dynamo have jumped to the top of the East and are one of two MLS teams that haven't lost at home this year. This is gonna be tough. My Pick 1-0 Houston.

Portland Timbers @ Real Salt Lake

22 Sep, 6:00 PM

Oh the Timbers, a lot of roster changes, a coaching change, and still the Timbers are simply looking like the "hot mess" of the league. At home RSL should be able to do well, but this one comes 4 days after our CCL match at Tauro FC. My Pick 2-2 draw.

Real Salt Lake @ Chivas USA

29 Sep, 8:30 PM

I am not afraid to play at the Home Depot Center, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. With Chivas USA you just have to worry that they might figure out how to score goals by this date, if so they could be dangerous. My Pick 0-0 draw

Real Salt Lake @ LA Galaxy

6 Oct, 7:00 PM

Back to Back road matches at the HDC, this could be a playoff type of match as LA has looked much better than the start of the season but one has to wonder if they can deal with CCL and MLS, their depth has looked very suspect. A lot could depend on how the Conference standings look as far as who plays in this match. My Pick 3-2 win for RSL

Real Salt Lake @ Seattle Sounders

17 Oct, 8:00 PM

This could be a preview of a playoff pairing based on where the teams are today, this has become a rather heated on pitch rivalry over the last year or so and with playoff positions at stake as well as momentum at the end of the season this could be a very fun match. My Pick 1-1 draw

Vancouver Whitecaps FC @ Real Salt Lake

27 Oct, 7:00 PM

The final regular season match for both sides and it could be one that determines the playoff status of one or both teams, huge implications. RSL will have played a midweek match in CCL action at home, so travel shouldn't be an issue. Could one or both side be resting their starters in front of the playoffs? Doubt it. My Pick 2-1 RSL

So I have a very optimistic view of how I think the last 10 matches will go as I see RSL going 4-1-5 to end the season, but there are some tough matches in this batch as of those 10 matches, 6 are against teams that as of today are in playoff positions. Still I think RSL will pull it together down the stretch and go into the playoffs in good form. There are the +3 matches that I didn't mention, so here they are:

Tauro FC at Real Salt Lake - 21 Aug, 8:00 PM - RSL should be able to leverage home pitch advantage with a good crowd (this is a STH trade in date) and elevation. Has to be a big win at home with no let up on the offensive side. My Pick 4-1 RSL

Real Salt Lake at Tauro FC - 18 Sep, 6:00 PM - RSL have to go for the jugular in this match, they should be familiar with Tauro by then and will need a very solid effort if they want to be able to keep on the pressure and win the group. We know it won't be easy but have to believe that we can get a win, cause a draw may not be enough. My Pick 2-1 RSL.

CS Herediano at Real Salt Lake - 23 Oct, 8:00 PM - This very likely will be the match that determines who advances and after RSL's 1-0 loss in Costa Rica this could come down to needing to win and then to win the tie breaker (1st tie breaker is head to head points, 2nd tie breaker is head to head goal differential), that could mean some very desperate action at the end of the match. My Pick 3-1 RSL

Again am I too much of an optimist? It could be but I believe that RSL has had their wake up calls in CCL and that they are fully aware that these last 10 league matches will impact playoff position and could end up as a factor in where MLS Cup is played on 12/1/12, so having a better record than any of the teams in the East has to remain a huge motivational factor. You know that our players would love to be able to play MLS Cup at home and after last years CCL final, they want to lift a trophy at home.

All of this depends on injuries of course, I do expect that we will see a couple of things happen over the last part of the season. First, I expect more action from Kenny Mansally, his size, pace, and offensive abilities could make him our secret weapon down the stretch. Second, I expect more action for Luis Gil, now I know that he is a young kid but he simply is a more creative option right now than Ned Grabavoy in my opinion and we have to find a way to have more than just Javi making creative plays in our midfield. Third, Will Johnson, I just have a strange feeling that we are going to see him really step up over the final third of the season. In recent matches he has looked better than most of the early part of the season, we know that he has a huge engine and huge heart, now we need him to take a bigger on field leadership role. Finally, Chris Schuler, I have to hope on this one, I think if Chris can get healthy he becomes a starter and we go with a CB rotation. At the start of the year he made me a believer, he was simply great before getting hurt and if we can get him back fit, I expect we will see a lot more of him down the stretch.

So there you go, my thoughts about the rest of the RSL season, what do you think? What will our record be over the last 10? Can we pull out wins in the +3 to advance in Champions League?