What a weekend that was. Real Salt Lake has in their hands the ability to control the Western Conference - a not insignificant thing, considering two weeks ago we were shaking in our boots a bit.
Last week, I wrote about the conditions that needed to be fulfilled if we were to have any chance at the Supporters Shield. Remarkably, two of those were fulfilled.
First, Montreal lost to New England. As they had two games in hand on us, with a win, they'd have met us in the first tiebreaker - wins - and inched toward us in the second - goals scored (but significantly behind us in that measure.) That was an encouraging match, but not entirely significant. It was perhaps the most significant action of Saturday, but one might argue that Chicago's win and Philadelphia's draw made the Eastern Conference nearly as interesting as the West. We'll touch on that specific set of results in a moment.
Second, and this is the big one, Portland beat Seattle 1-0 (with Will Johnson the catalyst in an Osvaldo Alonso sending-off, bless his heart), which was not exactly the ideal result, but one we can certainly be happy with. Portland now leads us at the top of the Western Conference, which, hey, isn't great. We'd rather be in total control, no matter what, but we ceded that long ago.
That was quite a match, though.
Anyway, we'll let Portland bask in the warm glowing warming glow of being at the top of the table for a moment, secure in the knowledge that we have a chance to jump back ahead of them on Saturday. Color me excited.
This week's most important matches where RSL is concerned:
Friday, Sporting KC faces DC United; anything but a win would surely make their Supporters Shield charge more difficult. Of course ... it's DC United, who literally have three wins from 32 matches.
Saturday, Seattle travels to Dallas, who have been eliminated from the playoffs. That should render things slightly less interesting, but a win for Seattle, should our match not go exactly as planned, would put us behind the Sounders.
Also on Saturday, Colorado hosts Vancouver in a match rife with playoff implications. A Vancouver win would see them ahead of Colorado on the second tiebreaker (goals scored). A win for colorado would see them at 51 points and, with the right (er, wrong) results, able to take control of the Western Conference in the final match. A draw would be fine.
Looking forward in the day, Chicago faces the dismal Toronto FC with their playoff spot on the line, which, at an initial glance, might seem to not impact us much. But with Chicago, Philadelphia, New England and Montreal fighting it out for the fourth and fifth spots in the East, their results could send ripples through MLS. Houston would seem to be safe, but a series of poor results would send them spiraling out of the playoffs.
We'll skip ahead of our game for a moment, because we should also talk about Houston against New York: "RSL East," as we've somewhat affectionately dubbed the visitors in this one, will be on the road and looking to squash a playoff-near-certain Houston side - but a side that has yet to seal a spot. It should be as tightly contested an affair as any. (And if we glance ahead even further, New York hosts Chicago on the final day of the season. Who said the East was boring?)
The remaining Sunday match sees LA Galaxy hosting San Jose, with the visitors hoping for a win that could have huge ramifications for last year's MLS victors.
Looking over our shoulder, then, at Saturday's big one - Real Salt Lake and Portland - gives us everything to play for and everything to lose. We'll be focusing very squarely on that one in the coming days, and rightly so. It's as big as they get. A win would see us in the ascendency in the west and fighting tooth and nail for the Shield; a loss would see us fighting for position in our last match.
It'll be interesting. Nobody can deny that.
More from RSL Soapbox:
- Training notes: RSL blue defeats RSL red in intrasquad scrimmage
- Midweek Mailbag: Playoffs, veterans, Kreis, defense and more
- Supporters Shield race: Six conditions that must be met for RSL to win it
- Forward scoring rates paint mixed picture of attacking group
- Luis Gil handed golden opportunity to impress after Morales suspension