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Match preview: RSL hopes to clinch playoffs with win over LA Galaxy

Zlatan, with the rest of the Galaxy in tow, will visit Rio Tinto Stadium in a match that could potentially see both teams clinch a playoff spot with just two-and-a-half weeks left in the regular season.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With three games left to play in the regular season, this one sure has a playoff vibe surrounding it.

Real Salt Lake plays host to the Los Angeles Galaxy in a game that could potentially see RSL clinch a playoff spot, depending on results from other games from Western Conference opponents.

Typically, the home team has been the dominant side in the series, with the last three games in a row being won by the home side. The last time LA traveled out here to Rio Tinto Stadium? Nobody can forget the epic 6-2 beatdown handed out by RSL, thanks to a hat-trick from Damir Kreilach, a brace from Albert Rusnak, a goal from Jefferson Savarino, and a visit from our favorite field-invader ever, the lucky duck.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake
Albert Rusnak safely guides the lucky intruder off the field in RSL’s 6-2 win over the LA Galaxy in 2018.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s also not forget that this wasn’t the first game where RSL has dropped six on the Galaxy — just one year prior, on July 4, 2017, RSL also beat the California side by a score of 6-2, but on this occasion it was on the road in front of LA’s home fans and saw a pair of goals from Jefferson Savarino, and one apiece for Rusnak, Kyle Beckerman, Yura Movsisyan (remember him?), and Joao Plata.

This time around, both teams have three games left to play, and one point separates them as LA sits in fourth and RSL is just behind them in fifth.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 14-12-5 (47 points)
Table: 5th place (west)
Points per game: 1.52
Most goals: Albert Rusnak (10)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (5), Damir Kreilach (5), Albert Rusnak (5)
Clean sheets: 11

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After Freddy Juarez fielded a less-than-preferred lineup in New England over the weekend, he’ll have plenty of fresh legs against the Galaxy to put their best foot forward. It paid off against the Revs, too, as they weathered a late-game storm to hold off the home side and escape with a point in the form of a 0-0 draw.

Playoff scenarios are all over the place, but with a win tonight, and some help from other Western Conference clubs, RSL could feasibly clinch a playoff spot. That will happen if:

  • RSL wins over LA Galaxy
  • Portland loses or draws with New England
  • San Jose loses or draws with Philadelphia

All three of those things need to happen tonight in order for RSL to clinch a playoff spot, so there’s plenty to play for. Further than that, RSL will be fighting to secure a home playoff game, so they absolutely need this win to jump into third place (they’ll be in second if Minnesota loses or draws against SKC) and try to stay up there for the rest of the season.

A loss, on the other hand, could spell disaster for the club, as both seventh-place San Jose and eighth-place Portland are only three points behind. A loss from RSL and wins from both other teams tonight could see RSL fall as low as seventh, in danger of missing out on the playoffs altogether with just two more games to play.

As if that’s not enough reason to dominate the Galaxy, some old familiar faces will be in town for the 10th anniversary of RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup win, including Javier Morales who will, very deservingly, see his name and number unveiled up in the rafters next to Jason Kreis. Although the full player list hasn’t been announced, we can imagine the majority of the players on that 2009 team who are available will be in attendance, and of course would love to see their old club take it to the Galaxy at the same time.


Jordan Allen (knee; out for season)
Nick Besler (foot)

Luke Mulholland (hamstring)
Douglas Martinez (hamstring)

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

Nick Besler

Projected lineup

Rimando; Toia, Onuoha, Glad, Herrera; Beckerman, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Baird; Kreilach

Los Angeles Galaxy

Record: 15-13-3 (48 points)
Table: 4th place (west)
Points per game: 1.55
Most goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (27)
Most assists: Cristian Pavon (6)
Clean sheets: 8

MLS: Montreal Impact at LA Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s really only one name that comes to mind when you think of the LA Galaxy, and that’s David Beckham. Wait — sorry — this isn’t 2012. It’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and it’s easy to see why he’s far and away the best player at the club. Despite his huge ego, he’s got 27 goals to his name this season, just two behind league-leader Carlos Vela, and only four away from tying Josef Martinez’s all-time record for goals scored in a single MLS season.

Sure, it sounds daunting, but let’s take a look at LA’s top five scorers this season for comparison:

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 27
  2. Uriel Antuna: 5
  3. Daniel Steres: 3
  4. Sebastian Lletget: 3
  5. Favio Alvarez: 3

You read it right — nobody else is even close to double-digits on the squad, so that means if Zlatan doesn’t perform, chances are LA doesn’t score a lot of goals. Newcomer Cristian Pavon has spurred the attack a bit as well, as he’s notched one goal and six assists in only eight games played.

Aside from that, Uriel Antuna has been their next best attacking player with his five goals and four assists, but it’s safe to say that without Zlatan, LA most likely wouldn’t even be in the playoff conversation.

The Galaxy are in prime position to clinch their playoff spot as well. If they win at Rio Tinto Stadium, they’re in regardless of any other outcomes tonight. However, they can still secure a spot even without a win. With a draw, they’d need both San Jose and Portland to draw or lose. With a loss to RSL, they’d need at the most only one of those two teams to draw, and the other one to lose.

Of course, if LA loses and either San Jose or Portland (or both) get a win, then it’s still up in the air for almost everyone.


Romain Alessandrini (knee)

Perry Kitchen (groin)

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

Favio Alvarez, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Jorgen Skjelvik

Projected lineup

Bingham; Feltscher, Steres Polenta, Romney; Corona, dos Santos; Antuna, Lleget, Pavon; Ibrahimovic

Match info

When: Wednesday, September 25, 7:30PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 71 degrees, partly cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)

Referee: Rubiel Vazquez
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Cory Richardson
Fourth Official: Sergii Demianchuk
Video Assistant Referee: Hilario Grajeda