Real Salt Lake could hardly ask to be in better position heading into the second leg of its Western Conference semifinal series with Seattle.
When the action gets underway at 8 p.m. tonight on the turf at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, the Claret-and-Cobalt will have a three-goal cushion as it tries to fend off the Sounders in the decisive leg of the aggregate goals series.
Seattle will once again be without star Mauro Rosales, who was ruled out of action on Tuesday, but RSL isn't taking anything for granted.
"I don't think we had the ability to pick our absolute strongest line-up since the first leg of the (CONCACAF Champions League) final at Monterrey," Real coach Jason Kreis said. "We're also cognizant of it only being halftime. We're going to need 90 more minutes of very committed soccer to make sure we advance to the second round."
And Real might just have to do it without two of its most critical defensive pieces, as central defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers were both forced from Saturday's first-leg match early with quadriceps injuries.
Both are expected to be match-time decisions tonight. Chris Schuler came off the bench on Saturday in the 32nd minute for Olave and performed admirably, but having both backs out would create a defensive dilemma for Kreis.
One solution would be to shift outside defender Chris Wingert into the middle, with Tony Beltran on the outside. That is, however, assuming Beltran is healthy enough to play. The speedy outside defender was RSL's most consistent defender for much of the season, but picked up a red card in last outing in the Emerald City and suffered an adductor injury during a reserve match the next week.
Whatever answer Kreis and his staff come up with, it probably won't be known until an hour before the match when teams are required to submit their match-day roster.
"It's halftime, and the Sounders are very, very good," said RSL midfielder Javier Morales, who dished off two assists in Saturday's win. "They can score many goals very quickly, so we need to play on Wednesday like we did (Saturday)."
No team in MLS history has ever entered the second leg of a series trailing by three goals and won, although San Jose rallied from a 4-0 aggregate deficit in 70 minutes and captured a stunning 5-4 win over the L.A. Galaxy in 2003.
Should Seattle score the needed three goals in regulation, then a 30-minute extra time will be played and then, if necessary, kicks from the spot will determine which team advances.
The Western Conference final will be held on Sunday or Monday, depending on where it is held.