For the Philadelphia Union, you don’t have much time to go back to the drawing board, not when you face two games over a four day period. It starts Wednesday vs the defending champions Real Salt Lake (7:00pm pre-game show, Live Well HD Network).
Led by Head Coach Jason Kreis, RSL comes in with a 10-4-5 record, good for 35 points. They have shrunk a double digit points deficit, as they now trail Western Conference leader Los Angeles by a mere five points.
Kreis won’t have his top gun tomorrow, Alvario Saborio, as he has been recalled by Costa Rica for a friendly vs Paraguay. RSL still have other top offensive players, though, like Javier Morales and Robbie Findley. It’s not known how much Findley will play as he will be suiting up tonight for the USA in their international friendly vs Brazil at the New Meadowlands Stadium (8:00pm, ESPN2).
For Philadelphia, how do they beat this Real Salt defense? Nick Rimando is having a sensational season in goal, with a 0.79 goals against average and eight shutouts. Rimando is helped out by arguably the best central defense tandem in MLS, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers.
Earlier this season, Real Salt Lake beat Philadelphia at home, 3-0. While Philadelphia is a better team than they were that day, so too is Real Salt Lake. Chris Seitz gets a second crack at his former team, hoping for a better result.
At some point, the mathematics of the playoffs will really tell the story. Surely the playoff chase is not over yet, but you can see it coming, especially if you don’t pick up wins both tomorrow and Saturday vs Colorado.
If the Union could win both, there would be some hope to move further up the table. Currently, they trail Colorado by 10 points and Toronto by 11, the teams that would occupy the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots if the season ended today. Yes, the Rapids are in the West, but that's the way MLS' complicated playoff structure works.
If and when the Union see their playoff hopes eliminated, we might see some interesting lineups towards the end of the season.