There's an ominous dark cloud on the horizon for Real Salt Lake, and it's casting a deceptive shadow on an otherwise decent season.
Despite an unbeaten record at home with a 3-0-2 mark, RSL is winless on the road in five away games, an imbalance that will never lead to the playoffs.
For this weekend at least, there's absolutely nothing RSL can do about its self-inflicted eyesore in the standings.
In the midst of a stretch that includes six of eight games at home a stretch some players have dubbed a make-or-break part of their season RSL hopes to take care of business at home today against the Kansas City Wizards at 7 p.m.
The players will worry about coming up with a breakthrough win on the road next weekend at Chivas USA.
"Hopefully we can continue that little run we're on now and keep our unbeaten streak alive first and foremost," said Real midfielder Andy Williams.
After settling for draws in two of its first three games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, RSL has prevailed in two straight over FC Dallas and San Jose.
During stretches of each win Real struggled at times, and coach Jason Kreis is hoping this is the week his players finally break through with the 90-minute performance he's been craving all season. A perfect match isn't likely, though that's where the comforts of home should be an advantage for RSL, one of three MLS teams still unbeaten at home.
"We just need to do what we normally do at home. Teams don't like coming here, and we've got to capitalize on that and get right at them from the start of the game and make it difficult for them," said striker Kenny Deuchar.
Both teams come into the match with 11 points in league standings, though not earned under similar circumstances. Kansas City has won just one of its last five matches all on the road. Tonight's visit to Rice-Eccles Stadium represents the conclusion of a brutal six-game road trip.
RSL coach Jason Kreis has a pretty good idea what to expect from the Wizards despite their recent struggles.
"We look back at their last match against L.A., and they came out with a very aggressive mentality, and so we expect the same," said Kreis. "We know their staff well, and we know that they're very confident in what they have, and I would suspect they're going to come and throw things at us."
It wasn't a winning formula for the Wizards. They led 1-0 at halftime but tired out in the second half and lost to the Galaxy 3-1.
RSL's previous game unfolded in completely different fashion. It struggled in the first half, but Robbie Findley and Javier Morales got the team going in the second half of its 3-1 win over San Jose.
Findley notched a goal and an assist in the win and was named MLS Player of the Week. His powerful goal strike was also named MLS Goal of the Week.
"This week he's looked extremely confident, so we hope for and expect big things from him this weekend," said Kreis.
RSL will likely unroll the same starting lineup it used against San Jose, except for Fabian Espindola. The forward is questionable with a variety of ailments, and with Findley coming off such a solid performance it seems the perfect opportunity to award Espindola with some much-needed rest.
Kansas City Wizards at Real Salt Lake
Rice Eccles Stadium
Today, 7 p.m.
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