Timbers-Real Salt Lake Preview
Despite its recent slump, Real Salt Lake still controls its own fate when it comes to what seed it will enter the playoffs with.
RSL will try to end a five-game winless streak and finish in the top three of the Western Conference when it hosts the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
After winning five in a row, Salt Lake (15-11-7) seemed to have locked up one of the top seeds in the West, but it's gone 0-4-1 since and been shut out three times, including in the last two.
RSL is tied with FC Dallas with 52 points and could drop to one of the wild-card spots depending on the outcome of Saturday's matches. Dallas plays at San Jose later that evening.
If the teams remain tied, Salt Lake would finish ahead having won the season series. Wild-card teams have to play a one-game playoff.
RSL will try to get its offense going, having scored two goals in the last five games. The club played to a scoreless draw at Colorado on Oct. 14, putting only one shot on goal.
Still, coach Jason Kreis thinks his team is headed in the right direction, with Nick Rimando having recorded six saves against the Rapids after allowing 12 goals in the previous four games.
"At this point, we are in the driver's seat," Kreis said. "We pick up three points ... and we don't have to look around at anyone else or wild card. It's all in our hands."
Captain Kyle Beckerman will finish a three-game suspension Saturday for headbutting a player in a 3-0 loss to Chicago on Sept. 28. He's missed the last three matches, including one for a national team call-up.
While RSL has plenty to play for, the same isn't true for Portland. The expansion club was eliminated from playoff contention after New York's 1-0 win over Philadelphia on Thursday.
"It's raw right now, but as a first-year team, I think we have a lot to be positive about," owner Merritt Paulson told MLS' official website. "We have got a core that we can build from and after speaking with our coaching staff, they believe we are about four players or so away from being a team that doesn't just squeak into the playoffs, but is clearly a playoff team."
The Timbers (11-14-8) didn't help their cause during the last month, recording one win in five games. They played to a 1-1 tie against D.C. on Wednesday, giving up the tying score in the 73rd minute after Kenny Cooper's team-leading eighth goal in the 24th.
Cooper has four goals in the last six games, but his teammates aren't providing him with much help. Portland hasn't scored more than one goal in five consecutive games and has been even worse on the road, where it is 2-9-5 and been outscored 25-9.
The Timbers defeated RSL 1-0 on April 30 behind a goal from Cooper in the 22nd minute.