Laura Seitz, Deseret News
VANCOUVER — For all the inconveniences brought about by traveling to Vancouver for Thursday's rescheduled match on a FIFA international weekend, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said there's a silver lining.
"It's another match that Javier (Morales) can gain some match fitness and some soccer readiness," said Kreis.
When Thursday's match with Vancouver was originally postponed back in July because of an unplayable field, RSL was riding a seven-game unbeaten streak and confident in getting a result against the expansion Whitecaps.
The circumstances are certainly different this time around. When the teams reconvene at BC Place tonight at 7:30, RSL will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak — a particularly tough task with four players away on international duty and another suspended.
"Whenever you lose three games in a row, that next game always gets more and more important. Going to Vancouver we have some guys down with suspensions and call-ups, but we've got to get our stuff together and get a good result there," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who could've been a national team absence as well, but he was granted permission to join the U.S. National Team in Miami on Friday instead of earlier this week.
Unfortunately for RSL — who was supposed to be off this weekend — Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Will Johnson and Jean Alexandre have already joined their respective national teams, while Fabian Espindola is suspended because of yellow card accumulation.
At least Morales will be in the line-up. After missing nearly five months with a broken ankle, Morales played 80 minutes in last weekend's loss at Los Angeles, and he expects to play in his third straight game tonight.
RSL's midfielder admits his left leg feels a little week, but he's hopeful he can strengthen it up over the final three games of the regular season to be ready for the playoffs.
Every minute Morales plays is important for his progress, but he seems more concerned about a good result from the team tonight.
"We lost the last three matches, but we have three matches left. How well we play the next three matches depends where our confidence will be for the playoffs. Those three matches are very important for us. We have to improve the details. The last three games we lose because of different mistakes or different details in different games. So we have to figure that out," said Morales.
Despite the three-game slide, RSL still occupies the third spot in the Western Conference and owns a five-point cushion on FC Dallas and a six-point cushion on Colorado. A victory in Vancouver would realistically lock up the No. 3 seed and help RSL avoid qualifying for the playoffs as a wildcard.
"The points right now are huge for us, I know there's some people that don't think there's much to play for, but for me there's a lot to play for," said Kreis.
Vancouver's 4-16-10 record is the worst in MLS, but it's a respectable 4-5-5 at home. Tonight's match is also just the second of the season at renovated BC Place, which should be rocking with a sellout crowd on hand.
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