With just three matches remaining in the regular season, Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles meet tonight in a critical Western Conference clash.
Tonight’s match, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Home Depot Center, pits Salt Lake, which currently occupies the West’s No. 2 table position and the Galaxy, who sit one point ahead of Seattle in third place.
An RSL victory tonight would put the Utah side six points ahead of Los Angeles with just two matches remaining, meaning Real would need just one point in its final three matches to secure a top three table finish and avoid a one-off playoff match with the No. 5 seed and a first-round date with presumptive Supporter’s Shield winner San Jose.
RSL carries a three-match winning streak across all competitions, including two straight in MLS play, into the match.
It will also be Real’s second consecutive match at the Home Depot Center, where the Claret-and-Cobalt blasted the Galaxy’s co-tenant Chivas USA 4-0 last weekend behind an Alvaro Saborio hat trick. Salt Lake is 3-0-0 in three appearances at the HDC this year, and strangely enough, is 0-2-0 at home against the Galaxy and Chivas. Real has scored 10 consecutive goals at the Carson, Calif., facility since falling behind Los Angeles 1-0 late in an eventual 3-1 win in both teams season-opening match.
“We knew (Chivas) was a big game, not a must win - but a big game for us,” said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando after last weekend’s decisive victory. “At the end of the season you try to get as many points as you can and today that was the mentality going into the game. The guys capitalized on that. All week we talked about going forward and getting offensive threats and that’s exactly what we did today.”
Los Angles trails Salt Lake by just two points, meaning that a full-value result today would move the California side into sole possession of second place in the league standings.
• JILL ELLIS INTERIM COACH OF US WOMEN: Jill Ellis will coach the U.S. women’s soccer team in its next two matches while a successor is found for Pia Sundhage.
After leading the U.S. to its second straight Olympic gold medal since taking over, Sundhage stepped down Sept. 1 to return to her native Sweden. She has since been hired as coach of the Swedish women’s national team.
Ellis, a former assistant to Sundhage, became development director for the U.S. women’s national teams in January 2011. She is not a candidate to replace Sundhage.
The U.S. plays Germany on Oct. 20 at Bridgeview, Ill., and again three days later at East Hartford, Conn.