Real, Vancouver set for key Western clash

Real Salt Lake and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will have selection concerns Friday, when the Western Conference rivals face off at Rio Tinto Stadium in MLS.

RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit both featured in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, with the latter playing a full 90 minutes of a stunning 3-2 win over Chelsea at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

Although Beckerman was only used as a second-half substitute, he could sit for the match along with DeMerit. RSL opens CONCACAF Champions League play Tuesday against Costa Rican side Herediano.

With short rest for both influential players, it could just come down to which team rolls the dice on a quick turnaround.

Real is second in the West, three points behind the San Jose Earthquakes, with Vancouver in third and just nine points off the top.

Real Salt Lake (12-7-3) coach Jason Kreis joked last weekend "I've often times said that I'm not sure they really need me. Just don't tell our owners that."

Beckerman may need his coach to sit him against Vancouver, or risk overworking his star midfielder ahead of crucial stretch of matches.

Coming off a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids last weekend, RSL will have home field to its advantage. With an 8-3-1 mark at RTS, and options off the bench, it would be an easy call to leave Beckerman out of the lineup.

But Kreis admitted last week "it's going to be very important for the guys to remember that we need to stay humble about (and) remember what it takes to get results."

Real's Ned Grabavoy insisted "we're never too low when we lose, never too high when we win." But a poor start against Vancouver could make Beckerman a must, should he not start.

Vancouver (9-6-7) coach Martin Rennie will likely have to sit DeMerit. He was arguably the best player on the field against Chelsea, but he was not expected to play a full 90 minutes.

Sporting Kansas city defender Aurelien Collin suffered facial fractures in the first half, and had to leave the match. That forced De Merit to play the whole match, although All-Star coach Ben Olsen only wanted to play him one half.

"It means I'm going to get a bunch of calls from Vancouver really pissed off," Olsen said, according to the league's website. "That's what that means."

Rennie can now only focus on reality, and that is it will be a risk to pencil DeMerit into the lineup. Instead, the Whitecaps could be better served to put their attention on last week's 2-1 win over San Jose.

Newly-acquired Dane Richards and Barry Robson both scored in the match, which was the second win for Vancouver over San Jose this season.

"San Jose is having a great season and we've managed to beat them twice," said Rennie. "Hopefully that builds some belief. It was a very important win for us."

"It takes games like this to gain more confidence that we should do this more often, and to do it against the best team in the league is a massive credit to the guys," DeMerit said.

Vancouver also debuted Scotland striker Kenny Miller, and it may have to count on its evolving offense if DeMerit is not able to anchor the defense this week against RSL.

"I think we've got the makings of a good team," Miller said.