The status of Real Salt Lake's first-choice center backs remains up in the air going into Sunday's MLS Western Conference Championship.
Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers, who both suffered thigh strains during RSL's 3-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders on Oct. 29 in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals, missed Wednesday's loss at Seattle.
RSL coach Jason Kreis was forced to juggle his lineup prior to the intense 2-0 loss in the second game of the semifinals, a series eventually won by RSL by a 3-2 aggregate score.
"Their status is day by day, and questionable," Kreis said. "It will be questionable all the way to game time."
Should Borchers or Olave return, Chris Wingert would likely return to his wing position. Kreis remains optimistic.
"Both of them have improved," he said. "Borchers is improving day by day, and I just talked to Olave and he says he's getting closer, too. Good signs."
The L.A. Galaxy's victory in its series against the New York Red Bulls, combined with RSL advancing to the conference championship, means a return for Real to the CONCACAF Champions League for the 2012-13 version of the North American soccer tournament.
RSL became the first U.S. team to advance to the final, which it lost earlier this season to Monterrey, Mexico.
"It's extremely, extremely gratifying," Kreis said. "If you would have told me at beginning of season or look at this season with a realistic eye, you'd say we've been against a lot. â¦ We've earned every point to get us to the place we are now."
For the players, it is a chance to wipe away the bitter taste of defeat from the home loss.
"We believe we should have won that and believe we can still win it," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "We want to get back to the final and win it. Getting third place [this season] meant something."
Galaxy midfielder Juninho returns
Los Angeles midfielder Juninho will return to the Galaxy's starting lineup for Sunday's game with RSL. The Brazilian missed out on Thursday's 2-1 win against the Red Bulls because of a suspension during the first leg of that series when he was involved in a postgame pushing match.
MLS playoffs schedule
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado
Sporting K.C. advances on aggregate 4-0
Oct. 30 • Sporting K.C. 2, Colorado 0
Wednesday • Sporting Kansas City 2, Colorado 0
Houston vs. Philadelphia, Houston advances on aggregate 3-1
Oct. 30 • Houston 2, Philadelphia 1
Thursday • Philadelphia 0, Houston 1
Sunday • Sporting K.C. vs. Houston, 3:30 p.m.
Los Angeles vs. New York (L.A. advances on aggregate 3-1)
Oct. 30 • Los Angeles 1, New York 0
Thursday • Los Angeles 2, New York 1
Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake (RSL advances on aggregate 3-2)
Oct. 29 • RSL 3, Seattle 0
Wednesday • Seattle 2, RSL 0
Sunday • Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 20 • At Carson, Calif., 7 p.m.