SANDY -- Just days after keeping its CONCACAF Champions League hopes alive, Real Salt Lake looks to take the next step in Major League Soccer action tonight.
Real hosts Western Conference rival Portland at Rio Tinto Stadium tonight at 6 p.m. with a chance to clinch a spot in the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs.
Salt Lake (14-11-4, 46 points) currently sits tied with Los Angeles for third place in the West. The Galaxy, however, would currently win that tiebreaker due to goal differential, and Real has just five matches to overturn that and climb up to a top three finish to avoid a first-round playoff.
RSL is 2-0-0 against Portland in two previous matches this season, claiming a 3-2 win in Portland on March 31, and then roughing up the 10-man Timbers 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 7.
Striker Alvaro Saborio, who scored the stoppage-time penalty at Tauro on Tuesday, had a hat trick against Portland during that match in Sandy.
Saborio's status for tonight's match is unknown after the Costa Rican international injured his right shoulder on the foul that led to his penalty attempt.
If Saborio is unable to play, it's likely that coach Jason Kreis will pair Paulo Jr. with Fabian Espindola up top, while keeping the rest of the lineup from Tuesday's win intact for the critical league match.
Portland is 2-1-2 during its last five outings, and is coming off a 2-2 draw with league-leading San Jose on Wednesday night. The Timbers led 2-0 in that match before the Earthquakes rallied to tie it in stoppage time.
Tonight's match will be Real's first MLS outing since Sept. 6, when the Claret-and-Cobalt dropped a tough 1-0 decision at Houston after a 93rd minute penalty kick.