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RSL vs. FC Dallas Preview: Crunch time for fourth-place RSL

RSL will look to keep their heads above water in the playoff race after suffering back-to-back losses.

MLS: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake hosts league-leading FC Dallas for their third and final match-up of the season this weekend. With only four games left in the season, every point is crucial if RSL wants to have any shot at bypassing the knockout round of the playoffs.

Playoff implications and scenarios

RSL (12-10-8, 44 points) sits in fourth place, just three points ahead of Portland and three points behind Colorado — who still have two games in hand. With a loss to Dallas this weekend and a Portland win against Houston, RSL would fall to fifth place, tied on points but losing out to the Timbers on the goal differential tiebreaker.

In somewhat of a skid after going winless in their last three, RSL needs to pull together and find a way to beat the best team in MLS for a second time this season if they want to stay in contention near the top of the table. Depending on how results go, if Salt Lake keeps dropping points, they could, at worst case, find themselves out of the playoff picture by the end of the season altogether. It’s unlikely — but it could happen.

However, the situation could just as well be flipped and the claret-and-cobalt could find themselves climbing the table just as quickly. A win against Dallas would set them tied on points with Colorado, who have a tough schedule coming up including four games in 15 days to end the season.

Luckily, RSL has a knack for bouncing back well after losses at home, winning three of their last five home matches directly following a loss.

FC Dallas (15-8-7, 52 points) sits comfortably at the top of the West, top of the MLS table, and is the only team in the league so far to have clinched a playoff spot. They’ve found a way to navigate their way through several competitions in the last month or so — posting a win and a draw in CONCACAF Champions League play, winning the US Open Cup final, and still remaining atop the league table and favorites to win the Supporters’ Shield.

Match history

The series between these two teams is split on the season, each team winning their respective game at home. Dallas won the first meeting on June 25th in Frisco by a score of 2-0, while RSL took all three points at home back on August 20th, winning 1-0 thanks to a Jamison Olave header.

Home matches against the Hoops bode well for RSL, as they hold a 10-5-4 record against the visitors through regular season and playoff games all-time. The last time Salt Lake lost back-to-back games at home was near the end of 2015, losing 1-0 to both Portland and Dallas.

Who’s in, who’s out

This weekend will mark the return (again) of Sunny, who was out last week after receiving a retroactive suspension from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for his tackle on Portland striker Fanendo Adi.

RSL is also still missing Aaron Maund who is out with a broken toe, and Javier Morales is still questionable after suffering a right quad injury a couple weeks back against Portland. He missed the Houston game last week and official word has yet to be released on his status for the Dallas match. Last week saw Luke Mulholland getting the start in the Maestro’s position, but who knows what Jeff Cassar has up his sleeve for this weekend.

On the Dallas side, the only injury to report is defender Zach Loyd, who has been out with a concussion and broken nose since June. Although he’s not a normal starter, he certainly adds to their depth and would be missed should Walker Zimmerman or Matt Hedges fall to injury.

RSL expected lineup: Rimando; Phillips, Olave, Glad, Beltran; Sunny, Mulholland, Beckerman; Plata, Movsisyan, Martinez

Dallas expected lineup: Seitz; Figueroa, Hedges, Zimmerman, Hollingshead; Acosta, Gruezo; Barrios, Diaz, Rosales; Urruti