Momentum is on the side of Real Salt Lake at a critical juncture in the season.
RSL return home to face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday as winners of back-to-back road games for the first time this season. Salt Lake claimed wins at Houston and at Colorado to aid its cause in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.
Salt Lake (12-10-5, 41 points) climbed to fourth in the Western Conference following a 6-0 drubbing of the Rapids on Saturday. Two Colorado players were sent off with red cards before halftime, and RSL took full advantage of the situation.
Jefferson Savarino scored a goal in each half to lead the onslaught. Five different players found the net to help Salt Lake claim its 10th Rocky Mountain Cup in the past 12 seasons.
“It shows that (our players) learned a lot throughout the course of some tough times on the road,” RSL coach Mike Petke said, concerning his team’s recent road success. “At the end of the day, if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, we most likely are going to be on the road for at least a game, so we have to flip the switch on that mentality and start understanding how to manage games.”
Los Angeles (10-9-8, 38 points) is searching for ways to regain momentum after picking up just three points in the past five matches. Four of those matches saw the Galaxy blow leads — including, most recently, a 1-1 draw with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC.
The Galaxy sit seventh in the Western Conference, with the top six making the playoffs. Sixth-place Seattle also has 38 points but holds the edge in the first tiebreaker, most wins.
Four injured starters — Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos, and Jonathan dos Santos and Michael Ciani — missed the match. The Galaxy received some good news when all four participated to some degree during training sessions heading into the match with RSL, but the dos Santos brothers and Ciani are listed as out for Saturday.
“The guys are training. ... We’ll see how they react,” LA coach Sigi Schmid told MLSSoccer.com earlier this week. “We need all hands on deck if we can, but it always comes down to the player and how symptomatic they are.”
A loss to Salt Lake would put Los Angeles six points behind RSL in the standings. Getting a result against Salt Lake on the road, though, will be a difficult task.
RSL are unbeaten in 12 straight matches at Sandy, Utah, since dropping the home opener to Los Angeles FC.
—Field Level Media