The Wizards have been slowly losing ground to a chasing pack of teams close behind them, and far more than a formality against the league's worst team, this match is vital to their playoff hopes. After hosting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake sets out on a four-game road swing; if wants to take any momentum into the final month of the season with University of Utah football in full swing, it needs a strong showing.
Kansas City is in the midst of playing five games in 14 days. This is the fourth match of that stretch, which started with a 1-0 loss to the Revs Aug. 19 and concludes in Houston Saturday against the defending champion locked in its own struggle for points.
Last week, Kansas City beat Chicago, 3-2, at home, then lost the return game, 2-0. In seventh place of the overall standings, it still has a five-point edge on the eighth and final playoff place, yet now there are three teams, not just Columbus, in the hunt.
Colorado has won three straight to pull even with the Crew at 27 points and Chicago's win lifted it just another point back. A crisp, efficient midfield is still creating chances, but as opponents have tightened up and dropped back, fewer chances are turning into goals.
Kansas City is still the league's highest-scoring road team, with 17 goals in 10 games, but the Fire and Revs shut it out in the last two away matches and the Revs also blanked KC at Arrowhead. Davy Arnaud is suspended, so support for Eddie Johnson - who scored the only goal when the teams met at Arrowhead July 14 - is going to be essential.
The second and third goals against the Fire were scored with a man advantage, and in the rematch several opportunities were squandered before Kansas City conceded what turned out to be the winning goal on a Cuauhtemoc Blanco free kick near the end of the first half.
RSL will also present a fresh look, as perhaps all three of its recently signed Argentines will be available. Fabian Espindola got his first MLS start up top last Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA and Matias Mantilla came on as a sub. Javier Morales stayed on the bench with a strained rotator cuff but is listed as probable.
Nathan Sturgis is still suffering from a calf strain and is not available. Without a goal in its last three games, RSL is due. Kansas City hasn't played a 0-0 game all season and can't count on getting one here, for despite RSL's atrocious record, it will be mean and hungry.