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RSL, K.C. aim to strengthen playoff positions

Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake will both look to continue to ascend in their respective conferences when they clash at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.

Real Salt Lake is just one point out of an automatic playoff spot, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference with 45 points. FC Dallas is narrowly leading Salt Lake in third place with 46 points, but Real has two games in hand.

Sporting was briefly tied with the Columbus Crew for first in the East, but Columbus earned a midweek draw with its game in hand to take sole possession of top spot.

In its last MLS match, Sporting cruised to a 3-0 win over the Houston Dynamo, but it was the clean sheet that Graham Zusi believes made the biggest statement.

"The shutout is huge for us," Zusi said. "We talk about being hard to score against, and tonight I can't remember [Houston] having a real clear chance and that says loads for our defense. They really stepped it up tonight and it puts a statement out there to the league and it puts a lot of pressure on Columbus to perform."

Meanwhile, after a troublesome period following the All-Star Game, Real Salt Lake has won three straight, its longest winning streak since opening the 2011 season with four straight wins.

"It is true, going through this season this team started to get rattled but lately they have stayed very resilient, disciplined and together," said Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis. "I'm proud and happy we had learned through all of this and hopefully we are a better team."

Most recently, Real Salt Lake came out on top at CenturyLink Field, defeating Seattle Sounders FC in a hard-fought battle of Western Conference titans.

After the tilt with Sporting, Real Salt Lake will have to deal with five of its remaining seven regular season matches coming on the road. RSL is 4-5-3 away from Rio Tinto Stadium.

"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers. "We have a lot of tough games down the road."

Sporting is also much better at home than on the road, but will fortunately play three of its last five matches down the stretch at Livestrong Sporting Park, where it has posted 7-2-5 record this season.