Chivas USA-Real Salt Lake Preview
Even with a sixth straight playoff berth secured, Real Salt Lake has plenty to play for in its regular-season finale.
With the top spot in the Western Conference and the Supporters' Shield still in its sights, Salt Lake tries for a fifth consecutive victory over lowly Chivas USA at home Wednesday night.
Though RSL (15-10-8) has played to a draw in its last two matches and is in the midst of a 1-2-2 league stretch, it's only one point behind first-place Portland in the West.
Salt Lake can win the conference with a victory or tie against Chivas (6-18-8), plus a Timbers' loss to Chivas on Saturday and if third-place Los Angeles loses or ties against Seattle on Sunday.
"We're confident in the work that we've been doing and the sky is the limit. I put nothing beyond this team," Salt Lake defender Lovel Palmer said.
While Salt Lake can finish no lower than fourth, it has an outside shot to win the Supporters' Shield for the league's best overall record, but would need a variety of scenarios to fall in its favor.
Not only would RSL need to win and Portland lose or tie, Sporting Kansas City must lose or tie against Philadelphia and not score eight more goals than Salt Lake.
New York also would need to fall to Chicago on Sunday and not score three more goals than RSL.
"This season, you never know what's going to happen," Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis told the league's official website. "It's a funny game. It's just amazing the parity in our league this year. It's more than I've ever recognized before.
"It's hard to predict anything this season."
While Salt Lake has managed three goals in its last five league matches, it's allowed one in the previous three and performed well overall during Saturday's scoreless draw at Portland.
"I'm hopeful that we can take some lessons out of this and carry it through the playoffs," Kreis said.
First, RSL looks to continue its success by sweeping the three-match season series from Chivas, which has been outscored 12-1 over the last four meetings.
Salt Lake's Ned Grabavoy has not scored in 10 straight league matches, but totaled two of his five goals this season during a 4-1 road win over Chivas on May 19. Teammate Kyle Beckerman has three assists in his last three matches against Chivas.
Last in the West, Chivas has been outscored 11-1 during an overall three-match skid. Since recording its lone road win, 4-1 at Chicago on March 24, Chivas' current 0-11-3 slide away from home ties the franchise's longest such winless stretch in MLS play.
Despite those struggles, Chivas has its sights set on preventing Salt Lake and Portland from winning the West.
"It's never bad to play the spoiler," midfielder Eric Avila told Chivas' official website. "It's going to be two tough teams that are trying to compete for a spot up top and I think, just to ruin the table a little bit, to shake things up, it would be nice.
"We just have to work hard, worry about ourselves and come out there and show up."
Shut out in its last two matches by San Jose and Los Angeles, Chivas' most recent goal came from Avila in the 50th minute of a 5-1 loss to Houston on Sept. 21.
Chivas fell 1-0 at Salt Lake on April 20.