Seattle, WA – Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC clash on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field in a possible playoff preview, with both hoping to solidify postseason positioning in the Western Conference of MLS.
Real Salt Lake sits second in the standings, three points in front of Seattle, with the end of the regular season less than two weeks away.
Although RSL (17-11-4) and Seattle (14-7-10) have both clinched playoff spots, finishing in the top three will secure a bye in the first round of the second season.
And with the San Jose Earthquakes comfortably atop the table, Real and Seattle are focused on maintaining their spots with the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy still right on their heels in fourth place.
Real has put so much importance on the road match, a private jet will fly U.S. players Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to Seattle on Tuesday night after the World Cup qualifier against Guatemala.
"We'll be flying them immediately from Kansas City to Seattle," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Beckerman and Rimando are not likely to play for the United States and will be fresh for the MLS match. Real will still likely be without Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio and Canadian defender Will Johnson.
With four wins in its last five games - including a 2-1 win at L.A. before the international break - RSL visits Seattle in great form. On top of that, RSL is unbeaten against Seattle this year with a road win and a home draw.
Real needs just two points from its final two matches to clinch a place in the top three and Kreis wanted the club to continue to improve its performances as the season comes to an end.
"We need to continue to try to improve," Kreis said. "I feel that we're going to need to be even better than that if we're going to have a realistic chance to win the championship."
RSL will assist Seattle as Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson will hitch a ride with the Real players to reach Seattle in time for the match. But Johnson will start for the United States, and may not be able to play anyway.
"You have to believe they would do the same if hey were in our shoes." Kreis said about RSL flying Johnson to the match.
Seattle defeated the Portland Timbers, 3-0, in its last MLS match, and has one game in hand on its competitors in the West. Even a point will put Sounders FC in position to remain in the top three.
But in addition to the uncertainty around Johnson, who scored twice for the United States on Friday, Sounders FC will not have Swedish international Adam Johansson, and Leo Gonzalez and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are questionable because of injuries.
With a 10-4-1 home record this year, and the best crowd support in the league, Seattle will try to pick up three points and pull level with RSL for second. A loss would give L.A., which is just two points back, hope of cracking the top three.
"We want to win this game and it doesn't matter that we don't have the same 11 guys we've had the last three or four games," Sounders forward Fredy Montero said. "All that matters is going to the field and trying to play good to get the three points."