Santa Clara, CA – The top two sides in the Western Conference will battle it out at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday as the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake collide with the teams separated by just one point.
The Earthquakes will be the more confident side having won the first two meetings, and San Jose captain Ramiro Corrales knows it will be a big boost to sweep the season series against a top contender, even though Corrales will miss the match through suspension.
"[It would be] a big, big confidence boost," Corrales said. "Obviously, they're one of the better teams in the league, that's why they're one point behind us. I mean, they're a handful. I think it's going to be a battle Saturday. I'm very disappointed I won't be a part of that, but I think the guys can do the job."
San Jose has earned one point from its last two games after winning three straight, and head coach Frank Yallop knows that Saturday's match is a big chance to put some distance between his team and RSL.
"Here we are again," said Yallop. "We've got a chance of getting a gap between us and them and they have a chance of overtaking us. It's a big game."
Salt Lake lost three straight games but has followed up that skid with a draw and a win, which midfielder Kyle Beckerman attributes to his team's attitude.
"It's an even keel, always an even keel," Beckerman said of his team's approach to the season. "Same thing we don't get too up or too low, and that's what you have to do. We'll just stay even. We know we have a lot more season to go and we want to keep improving, so we'll get ready for a big game in San Jose."
RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is coming off his best performance of the season having netted a hat trick in a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers last time out.
And when Saborio scores, it usually bodes well for RSL, which is 25-4-5 in games where he has found the back of the net.
But in addition to Saborio and Fabian Espindola, the two leading scorers on the team, Salt Lake added more depth to its forward rotation with the addition of Salt Lake City native Justin Braun from the Montreal Impact in midweek.
"I think he can play either one of the forward spots for us," Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey said of Braun. "He can spell [Alvaro] Saborio, he can spell [Fabian] Espindola. I think he's going to push our two young kids in Paulo [Jr.] and Emiliano [Bonfigli] - really a versatile player who I think is really going to help us."
RSL would love to get one win under its belt against a Western Conference rival, especially if the two sides happen to meet up again in the postseason.