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Sandy • Scoreboard watching has officially begun.
With 12 Major League Soccer matches remaining on Real Salt Lake’s schedule, including Friday’s home game against improving Vancouver at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium, the run to the playoffs has started.
Vancouver Whitecaps at Real Salt LakeAt Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy)
Kickoff » Friday, 7 p.m.
TV » CW30
Radio » 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
Records » Vancouver 9-6-7, RSL 12-7-3
All-time series » Tied 1-1-0
Last meeting » Vancouver, 3-0 (Oct. 6, 2011)
About the Whitecaps » Designated player Kenny Miller may play in what would be his first away match in MLS. … Former RSL forward Atiba Harris may see playing time after playing 45 minutes in Monday’s reserve match.
About RSL » Real last allowed a goal in a game at Rio Tinto in the 84th minute June 23 against San Jose, a run of 276 minutes since an opposing team last scored in Sandy. … Forward Fabian Espindola’s last goal came June 16. He has recorded three of his four assists over a seven-game span since then.
"We’re starting to look, I won’t lie," RSL coach Jason Kreis said of the unfolding Major League Soccer conference races. "I’m starting to look at the standings, trying to figure out what is necessary to get us toward the top and what is necessary to make the playoffs."
Vancouver (9-6-7) figures prominently into Kreis’ equations. The Whitecaps, fresh off a 2-1 defeat of Western Conference leader San Jose, have 34 points, five back of second-place RSL (12-7-3).
RSL trails San Jose (13-5-4) by four points. In the Eastern Conference, New York’s 38 points put it one ahead of Kansas City.
"You always glance at the standings, especially once you get into the second half of league play," RSL defender Tony Beltran said. "There are a lot of teams that are very close."
With three shutouts in its last four games, RSL looks to continue its home success.
Real rebounded from a 5-0 loss at San Jose to earn 2-0 victory Saturday against visiting Colorado, clinching a sixth straight Rocky Mountain Cup.
With the victory, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando moved into second place all-time on the MLS career wins list, and Alvaro Saborio scored his team-leading 11th goal.
RSL will play the Whitecaps again in less than two weeks, so a substantial point swing is possible.
"They could be the best team we’ve had in our building this year," Kreis said.
Recently acquired midfielders Dane Richards and Barry Robson have sparked the Whitecaps’ attack. They are not expected to bunker in and play defensively Friday.
"They are really good and have a lot of depth at every position," RSL’s Chris Wingert said. "They have too much attacking power to sit in. They might try to counter a little, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be any less dangerous with the speed they have up top."
Vancouver may be without captain Jay DeMerit. He was one of three MLS players to play the entire 90 minutes during Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game in Philadelphia.
RSL’s Kyle Beckerman played less than a half, and assisted on a goal, but it is uncertain whether Kreis will keep Beckerman on the sidelines for Tuesday’s Champions League game in Costa Rica.
"We’re just trying to build and improve every game," RSL midfielder Will Johnson said. "We want to move forward toward the postseason and see if we can get ourselves in a position to make another run."
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