Finding some new-found confidence with its top players back in the fold, Real Salt Lake looks to end its road struggles Saturday night against the surging Los Angeles Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake (7-3-7) is a distant second to Seattle in the Western Conference, trailing by seven points. RSL, though, has a seven-point advantage over sixth-place Los Angeles (5-3-6), which has three matches in hand.
Real has already taken four of six possible points in the previous two meetings between the teams, and after ending a five-match winless drought with a 2-1 victory over New England on July 4, Jeff Cassar's club now looks to halt an 0-2-1 stretch on the road.
"Any time you go head-to-head with a team that has a lot of confidence - especially now in the second half of the season - it's going to be a six-point game," Cassar told the team's official website. "It's a place where we do extremely well, especially against the Galaxy, and as long as we have 11 players on the field, I think we have a good shot."
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman played the full 90 minutes in last week's win after helping the United States reach the round of 16 in the World Cup in Brazil.
Real is unbeaten when Rimando is in goal this year, compiling a 6-0-3 record with three shutouts. Rimando preserved a 1-0 win at Los Angeles on March 8 by making a season-high nine saves, the last coming on Robbie Keane's penalty kick in the third minute of injury time in the second half.
Rimando has conceded one goal in getting two wins and a draw in his last three matches against the Galaxy dating to last year.
Los Angeles pushed its unbeaten streak to six matches (3-0-3) by scrambling for a 2-all draw versus Portland on July 4. The Galaxy allowed two goals in a three-minute span after Marcelo Sarvas scored in the 65th minute, but an own goal by Timbers defenseman Rauwshan McKenzie in the 86th minute let them slip away with one point.
"We could have competed better most of the game, and that was disappointing," said Landon Donovan, who also felt he was denied a penalty kick late in the second half after referee Jair Marrufo determined there was no foul following contact from Timbers defender Danny O'Rourke inside the box. "We feel like this is a game we should have won."
The league's all-time leading scorer with 159 goals, Donovan has only one in his last seven matches against Real Salt Lake.
The Galaxy are 3-0-2 in their last five home games, with Keane, Donovan and Gyasi Zardes combining for seven of the 10 goals in that span. The 22-year-old Zardes, who is second on the team with five goals across all competitions, will play for MLS against the Timbers' U-23 squad in the inaugural Homegrown Player Game on Aug. 4. The MLS All-Star game is two days later.
The teams also played to a 1-all draw at Real Salt Lake on March 22. Alvaro Saborio and Keane traded first-half goals in a match that featured only three combined shots on goal.