For the third time this season, a showdown between Real Salt Lake and San Jose will be for the top of the Western Conference table.
Unlike those first two meetings, however, Real enters tonight's contest as the underdog.
Salt Lake takes aim at San Jose tonight at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., looking to return to the top of the league table -- a position it held for 11 consecutive weeks before suffering a 2-1 home loss to the Earthquakes just a few short weeks ago. Kickoff of tonight's match is set for 8:30 p.m. and will be televised live on KTVX.
Both previous meetings saw then-second place San Jose knock Real out of the league's top spot, a favor which RSL would love to return tonight.
Salt Lake enters the match with a full steam of confidence after whipping Portland last weekend, snapping a four-match winless streak behind an Alvaro Saborio hat trick.
"We made it very clear to our players that we wanted to get back to the basics and establish a foundation," RSL boss Jason Kreis said. "I feel like we've moved a step in the right direction."
Real enters tonight relatively healthy, and could field an entirely first choice lineup against San Jose, something it hasn't been able to do much during a season that has seen injuries rob the team of quality minutes for some of its biggest stars.
One particularly tantalizing pairing comes on the right side of Real's diamond midfield with both Javier Morales and Luis Gil starting. While Gil has often filled in Morales' role at the top of the midfielder while the latter was recovering from ailments, the two playmakers paired brilliantly during Salt Lake's decisive win over Portland, enhancing each other's natural creativity.
It was a key pairing for an RSL offensive attack that harassed the Timbers with 18 shot opportunities throughout the 90 minute match, allowing the Utah side to maintain plentiful possession in the attacking third.
San Jose (11-4-4, 37 points) enters tonight's match after a scoreless draw against FC Dallas last weekend in Frisco, Texas, and the Earthquakes will be playing their first league match at Buck Shaw since May 19, when they drew Columbus 1-1.
The series is as close as possible, standing at 5-5-5 all-time. The teams are 3-3-1 in six meetings in California.
* RED BULLS TRADE FOR LOS ANGELES GOALKEEPER: The New York Red Bulls acquired goalkeeper Bill Gaudette from the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday, in exchange for a draft choice.
Gaudette, 30, joined the Galaxy this season, and appeared in three matches (0-2-1). He posted a goals-against average of 1.33. New York will ship Los Angeles a 2014 second-round, supplemental pick in exchange for the veteran.
Gaudette also played for the Montreal Impact of the North American Soccer League in 2011, making nine appearances.
"Bill is an experienced goalkeeper in American soccer and MLS," Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler said. "He will provide quality competition and guidance for our two young goalkeepers and we are excited to bring him to New York."
A native of Hummelstown, Pa., Gaudette began his professional career in MLS with the Columbus Crew, who selected him in the 2005 supplemental draft. Gaudette played in college at St John's.