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Playoff Preview: Competitive West makes life hard for RSL

It’s going to be a long road.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

As it sometimes does, Saturday is looming.

Also, Sunday. That one’s looming, too.

Real Salt Lake’s playoff chances are now hanging in the balance a bit, and in spite of marked improvement over 2017, it’s still not a sure thing. A competitive Western Conference has made securing playoffs until the last few weeks all but impossible, and if RSL is interested in securing it early, they’ll need results to fall their way — especially their own.

With that in mind, here are your key matches — outside of our own — for the weekend.

Key matches

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: LAFC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Is this a ... derby? Rivalry? High-stakes match? All of the above are probably no, but LAFC needs a win to stay competitive in the Western Conference standings. They’re almost certainly going to make the playoffs, but they were once in touching distance of first place. A loss against San Jose would spell problems for them there — and an RSL win could mean they can bump up to third place (if Portland also fails.) It’s something, alright.

Root for San Jose. It’s worth it.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers

As it stands, RSL is just two points behind Portland, and we’re equal on games played. That means we’re somewhat remarkably in a position to catch them, which is quite something, considering they were two games behind us and very close for a time — and given we dropped points last weekend.

Every point matters now. Root for Minnesota United, even if it hurts.

Sunday, 5 p.m.: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas

The odds now that we get past FC Dallas are very slim, so we should simply accept wins over teams that are closer in the standings as wholly necessary. This is one of those. Vancouver Whitecaps could still claw their way back into the playoff picture, and the odds are good that it would be at our expense if they did.

FC Dallas simply needs to win this to stay competitive in the first-place hunt, and I suspect they will.

Sunday, 5 p.m.: LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders

I’m actually torn here. LA Galaxy could still inch up toward us — like Vancouver — and Seattle could easily pass us. We need the Galaxy to lose, but we also need Seattle to lose. The compromise position, I suppose, is a draw, and that’s what we’ll have to hope for. I’m not happy about it.