It stands to reason that if you're a quality MLS team, whenever you play fellow top-of-the-table teams those matches are going to be doubly important.
For Real Salt Lake though, whenever those marquee matches have rolled around this season it always seems to be on the road.
RSL was the road team at Kansas City last month in the hyped battle of Western and Eastern Conference leaders. A week later it was again the visiting team at San Jose in a battle for West supremacy. That's the scenario again Saturday night when Real Salt Lake visits the red-hot Seattle Sounders.
"We know it's always a difficult place to play and a very, very good opponent. I don't know that it changes really based on the results, we always know it's going to be a tough test for us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Winners of five straight, no one is playing better soccer right now than Seattle. It has only conceded three goals all season, and despite playing three fewer games than RSL, it only trails the Western Conference leaders by one point heading into Saturday's 8 p.m. match (Ch. 4.).
"There's never any easy game, especially when you go on the road. Seattle's another tough opponent, they're getting points every week. We have to be ready, we have to be prepared 'cause they have some good goal scorers and their defense is pretty good," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
After sitting out the scoreless midweek tilt in Chicago with an injured shoulder, Rimando said he's ready to return to the lineup if called upon.
"It's the coaches' decision. I think I did everything I can to get back on the field and get this shoulder right to where it needs to be," he said.
Oft-injured midfielder Javier Morales won't be available though. He injured his quadriceps in the first half in Chicago and didn't travel with the team to Seattle. Plagued by a variety of injuries all season, Morales has only started six of 12 matches this season.
With a two-week break upcoming though, RSL is optimistic about Morales returning when it hosts FC Dallas on May 26.
Even though Morales is out, regulars Nat Borchers, Will Johnson and Fabian Espindola figure to be back in the starting lineup after sitting out the Chicago match.
A year ago, the road team won both regular season meetings, and Borchers is excited about another visit to CenturyLink Field.
"It's a huge opportunity for us to show how good we are in this league against one of the best teams in the league … in front of a great home crowd," said Borchers.
Coming off its first shutout in six matches, Real Salt Lake is feeling pretty good about itself defensively.1 comment on this story
"In looking back on that game, it was a complete defensive by everyone on the field. … it was all 11 players who bought into our objective there, which was to get a shutout," said Kreis.
Saturday caps another difficult three-game, eight-day stretch for RSL. The previous two times that happened this year, RSL went 3-0-0 and 1-1-1. Heading into Seattle it's 1-1-0 during its current stretch.