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Horton: RSL on a bye, but intrigue abounds around the league

04 September 2:37 pm

Horton: RSL on a bye, but intrigue abounds around the league

By Jeremy Horton

I've got some bad news for you, Real Salt Lake fans: Your team doesn't play a Wednesday night fixture tonight. Nor do they play this weekend, or next Wednesday. No, RSL doesn't take the pitch again until next Friday, 10 long days away. For whatever reason, MLS decided to give the Claret-and-Cobalt a break for the upcoming international dates while the rest of MLS plays on. Now I don't like the lack of RSL games either, but as we shall see later, if you're going to have a weeklong break, this is the time for it.

So what's a Real fan to do with no game to watch for the next week? Well, there are plenty of great World Cup qualifiers going on around the world, including those featuring RSL men Abdoulie Mansally (The Gambia), Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica), Nick Rimando (USA), and Kyle Beckerman (USA). Thanks to this break in the schedule, none of these players are going to miss any club matches due to international duty. But there are plenty of MLS clubs that do have games, and many of these games will affect the Supporter's Shield and playoff races that RSL is right in the thick of. So I would suggest that there are still matches worth watching and/or following, and I've got your guide to the ones that most impact RSL below:

Chivas USA at Seattle Sounders (Wednesday 9/4, 8:00 MT, MLS Live)

The Sounders are eight points behind RSL, but thanks to scheduling quirks they have played four fewer games than Salt Lake. That means they have 12 points worth of games in hand, which means any points they drop as they play those extra games would be very helpful to Real's Supporters’ Shield chances. That starts tonight as Chivas USA visits. You may be tempted to think this is a guaranteed three points for the Sounders, but not so fast: They are missing both starting strikers (Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson) to international duty, and midfield stalwart Brad Evans is injured. On top of that, the Goats are playing some decent soccer at the moment, and their striker Erick Torres is one of the hottest players in the league right now. They could snatch a point against a depleted Sounders side.

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders (Saturday 9/7, 8:00 MT, NBC Sports Network)

Here we have another Seattle game that may be tougher than you might think. Those internationals will still be away for Seattle while the Fire are unaffected. Mike Magee has scored goals aplenty for Chicago, and Seattle will be playing on three days’ rest. Tune in to see if all those factors conspire to work against the Sounders.

Colorado Rapids at LA Galaxy (Saturday 9/7, 8:30 MT, MLS Live)

The Galaxy are the hottest team in MLS along with RSL, and currently RSL's greatest Supporters’ Shield threat. It would help Real greatly if somebody could slow them down a bit and Colorado has first crack at it. Like Seattle, LA is missing some key pieces due to international duty; Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, and Landon Donovan will all miss this one. When Donovan missed games earlier in the year, the rest of the Galaxy struggled to score goals and win games. And with Colorado fighting for their playoff lives in the midst of a brutal schedule, the outcome here is definitely not a given.

New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo (Sunday 9/8, 3:00 MT, UniMas)

New York sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, but their chances of overtaking Montreal took a hit this week as they learned that midfield wizard Tim Cahill will miss several weeks due to injury. This week they take on the Jekyll-and-Hyde Dynamo, who seem to alternate between jaw-dropping and cringe-worthy soccer each week. Regardless, it's never easy to play in Houston, and it would help RSL if the Dynamo could send New York home with nothing.

Montreal Impact at New England Revolution (Sunday 9/8, 5:30 MT, MLS Live)

Montreal is currently RSL's greatest threat in the East, but they recently got some bad injury news of their own. New Designated Player Hernan Bernardello is out for multiple weeks with an ankle injury which will make it harder for Marco Di Vaio and company to score. In this fixture they travel to take on the upstart Revs who are clinging to the final playoff spot in the East. New England knows three points at home are a must, so look for them to try to keep the Impact on the back foot all night.

So there you have it - even with no Real Salt Lake, there's plenty going on that will be of interest to RSL fans. The Supporters’ Shield race is still murky but it will get much clearer over the next week, so tune in and see how it all unfolds.