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Thoughts and reactions: The 2021 Real Salt Lake regular season schedule

Every MLS fans favorite time has arrived, schedule releases! Let’s take a look at the games not to miss and the schedule in its entirety.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time again, the season schedule is out! Real Salt Lake put out it’s full schedule here, so let’s take a look at some big games and things to keep in the back of your mind as season approaches.

April 24 at Minnesota United

This one is the 2021 season opener. A bit of a later start than MLS fans are used to, but better late than never. Minnesota United had a successful 2020 campaign despite all the chaos and finished fourth place in the Western Conference. This game is always unpredictable against these two teams. RSL took a 4-0 loss and a 0-0 draw against Minnesota in the 2020 season, and a 1-1 draw and 3-1 loss in 2019. Starting off the season against Minnesota is going to be a tough match-up, and it will likely show us a lot about where Real Salt Lake stands heading into the 2021 campaign.

May 1 versus Sporting Kansas City

It’s a rivalry as old as, well, that Fourth of July game in 2013. And that December 7th game in 2013. Anytime SKC comes to town there is sure to be some fireworks on, and likely off, the pitch. Sporting found themselves atop the Western Conference standings at the end of the 2020 season but ultimately lost to RSL’s week one opponent, Minnesota, in the conference semi-finals. SKC did lose Matt Besler this off-season, which could be a big hit for them, but this SKC side is fired up and well-coached coming back into Rio Tinto Stadium and surely will provide excitement.

July 24 versus Colorado Rapids

Another age old tradition for Salt Lake fans, playing and hopefully beating the Rapids on Pioneer Day. There’s usually fireworks after this one, but this game will provide plenty on the field as well. Very few RSL fans need to be explained why this one is one that should be on your ‘dont miss’ list. If you want to see some physical, sometimes a little ugly, soccer do what you can to be in the RioT on July 24.

This game is a part of a double game week with a home matchup against LA Galaxy on July 21, another great game you won’t want to miss.

Sept. 18 versus Seattle, Sept. 25 against Portland, Sept. 29 versus LA Galaxy

These three games, for me, are going to be pivotal for the success of the regular season and the hopeful postseason campaign. These are three big midseason games that you have to pick up at least the six home points in. Every year when it comes playoff time you always think back to the games you dropped points but shouldn’t have, these scream the potential to be those games.

At home against Seattle, RSL needs to be successful and turn the RioT back into the fortress it once was. On the road against Portland is going to be incredibly tough, but a draw there against the Pacific Northwest rivals should be adequate to round out that week at home with three points over LA Galaxy. Those three games could prove to be really difficult and how RSL plays through them could make or break a playoff spot.

Nov. 7 at Sporting Kansas City

Just in case MLS didn’t make the home opener tough enough on us, they wanted the season finale to be as well. Another game against SKC, a trip to Children’s Mercy Park, and surely this one will have major playoff seeding implications. SKC on the final day of the season in Kansas City brings back some flashbacks none of us want to relive, but hopefully it goes better this time around.

A few schedule notes

In addition to some big games, there are a few other things to note that are going to be big helps this year.

First, no Sunday home games. Once again MLS has done what they can to keep Sunday games out of Utah. There is one away game to LAFC on a Sunday, but other than that, all games are Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.

Secondly, no long road trip or home stand. MLS provided a pretty balanced two game homes, two game away format for this season. There’s no three or four game away stands this season which provides lots of opportunity for mental adjustments not being dogged down on a long away trip. There’s a three game home stand from May 1-15 is all.

Lastly, season ends in November. So if all goes well, we may just be having some more freezing cold Rio Tinto playoff games this season!