Seattle, WA – Real Salt Lake has played fewer matches than any other Western Conference team, and can move within three points of second place with a win over Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
RSL has won two straight in Major League Soccer, and sits just six points off the pace of the Sounders. Real has two matches in hand on Seattle, as well as first-place Los Angeles and third-place FC Dallas.
But despite being within reach of the top clubs in the West, Real (12-7-6) has struggled on the road this season with just three wins from 11 matches. Should it fail to get a result this weekend, it would lose its two-game advantage.
However, a win against Seattle (13-5-9) would put Real in position to overtake its foes in the closing weeks of the regular season.
RSL edged the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in its last game. Kyle Beckerman scored a goal and added an assist, as he was allowed to join the U.S. national team late for its game against Belgium.
"It was important that our captain was with us (against the Union) and leading us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis last week.
Beckerman played against Belgium on Tuesday, and will be available this week - when Real will try to avenge an early-season home loss to Seattle.
Seattle was the first team to win at Rio Tinto Stadium in more than two years in late May, when it edged RSL 2-1. Lamar Neagle and Patrick Ianni scored for Seattle, but the game turned on a red card to RSL defender Jamison Olave.
RSL will be without defender Chris Wingert for this game due to injury, but at least it won't be down a player.
Seattle doesn't need any help, as the club sits second in the Western division and has advanced to the U.S. Open Cup final for the third straight season.
The Sounders posted an impressive 6-2 win over the Columbus Crew, who lead the Eastern Conference, in their last game when Neagle scored a hat trick.
Unbeaten in four straight in league play, Seattle hopes to build off the great win over Columbus and solidify its spot near the top of the standings.
"We got off to a good start. Then we were able to parlay that and score more goals after that," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "With the amount of games we're playing, to be able to come out and score six goals against the Eastern Division leader I think is something that the team's got to be very proud of."