SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake have two things they know they need to do better if they are to beat the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online). The first is to finish their scoring chances. And the second is just as obvious: Stop Chris Wondolowski.
“If Wondolowski is free in your box anywhere within 12 yards of the goal between the posts, then you’ve got problems because he’s not a mystery to anybody,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis. “We’ve played against him enough times that if he is free then we’ve made a major error.”
Real made that error in both of the previous two meetings between the clubs. This is the third and final regular meeting of the two teams sitting atop the MLS table. The first came on April 21, a game that saw both forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jamison Olave receive red cards. San Jose took advantage, scoring two stoppage-time goals – including Wondolowski's game-winner in the 92nd minute – for a 3-1 win at home.
The second game was only three weeks ago, and Wondolowski again scored the game-winning goal, this time in the 84th minute, for a 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium. The result allowed San Jose to take over first place in the Western Conference despite RSL thoroughly outplaying the Quakes in every statistical category but the one that counts most.
"After looking at the film, we had about 24 scoring chances, 12 of them really clear-cut opportunities," said coach Jason Kreis during the week following the Earthquakes game. "I think on a different night we bury three or four of those and the game takes on a completely different feeling."
It may only be game No. 21 of a 34-game season for RSL, but if they want to keep up their hopes of winning a Supporters' Shield and a chance to host an MLS Cup, a regular-season game doesn't get much bigger than this one.
“I’m really, really up for it. I’m hopeful all the guys feel the same way as me," said Kreis. "I feel like the last match here and the match there, both had some really odd stuff going on in those games. I feel we have a statement to make."
Both defender Nat Borchers and midfielder Ned Grabavoy have been limited in training this week. Grabavoy is listed as questionable, while Borchers and midfielder Javier Morales are listed as probable. Regardless of who takes the field, RSL want to be heard.
“We need to prove to ourselves that we can go in there and beat a good team at their place,” said defender Chris Wingert.