SANDY — According to many, Real Salt Lake is the best team in MLS this year.
Others believe the Los Angeles Galaxy, last year's Supporter's Shield winner, is still the team to beat in 2011.
Many questions will be answered tonight when the teams square off at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7 p.m. in one of the marquee MLS matches of the entire season.
"The whole week I've been excited about this match," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "Anytime you're playing L.A. you know you're going to have a good crowd, and we've been on a pretty good run of form, especially at home."
With BYU ousted from the NCAA tournament on Thursday and the Utah Jazz drifting further and further out of playoff contention, all eyes will be on Real Salt Lake when it puts its 35-match home unbeaten streak in all competitions on the line.
Both teams will be missing key players because of injuries and international call-ups, but plenty of marquee players will be on the pitch, including David Beckham, who will be make his Rio Tinto Stadium debut.
In fact, this will be Beckham's first appearance against RSL since the 2009 MLS Cup final. Don't expect the home team to be awed.
"It is what it is. He's another player on the field. We're not going to be star struck or anything, he's a good player and we're going to have to be aware that he's on the pitch because he can change a game in a single moment," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
Los Angeles will be playing without Landon Donovan, who is with the U.S. National Team.
Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, could be missing as many as four starters tonight. Alvaro Saborio and Will Johnson are both with their respective national teams while Jamison Olave (hamstring) and Nick Rimando (ankle) are questionable.
The hobbled pair will test themselves a few hours before kickoff to determine their availability. If they're unable to go, Chris Schuler and Kyle Reynish figure to start in their place.
Kreis admits RSL's next match at Saprissa on April 5 will factor into his decision.
"That match is the most important thing on our plate right now. ... It certainly makes us think," he said.
Real Salt Lake heads into its home opener coming off a gutty 1-0 victory in miserable conditions in San Jose. Los Angeles (1-0-1) has already played two matches, including a draw in miserable conditions against New England at home last weekend.
Tonight's match could be played in similarly miserable conditions as snow and rain are in the forecast.
Between its MLS opener last weekend and the CONCACAF Champions League RSL is already 3-0-1 this season with one goal allowed.
Kreis expected his team to be good defensively after only conceding 20 goals in league play last year, but he's pleasantly surprised by the offense.
"I'm a little surprised with how well we're playing with the ball. I think we've established a level of what we can expect defensively over the past several years, but I'm a little surprised with how well we're playing with the ball, how many chances we're creating and how fluid some of our possession seems to be," said Kreis.1 comment on this story
Last year the Galaxy got off to a hot start and Real Salt Lake was forced to play catch up all year in the race for the Supporter's Shield. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman hopes to reverse that trend.
"Last year we weren't able to catch them, so this will be the first time to really get above them," said Beckerman.
Excluding its playoff loss to Dallas, Real Salt Lake hasn't lost an MLS match in 15 straight dating back to mid-July.