Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC will duel for first place in the Western Conference when the two sides meet at CenturyLink Field on Friday.
The Western Conference rivals enter the contest separated by just two points, though Seattle, occupying second place, holds two games in hand.
The Sounders have done well to ascend up the table in recent weeks, winning their last four regular season matches to improve to 46 points on the season. They claimed a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday thanks an 89th- minute own goal from Gonzalo Segares.
It looks likely that Seattle will enter Friday's clash with limited involvement from Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson as the duo featured for the United States national team on Tuesday. Head coach Sigi Schmid revealed that they probably won't start the match but that they could play a role off the bench if needed.
Even without Dempsey and Johnson, the Sounders still should give a good account of themselves as they have churned out some inspired defensive performances of late. Seattle has conceded just one goal over its current four-game winning streak, and Schmid's men will need to be solid at the back once again if they hope to contain a Salt Lake side that has exploded to score 11 goals over its last three league matches.
Real Salt Lake most recently edged the Portland Timbers in a 4-2 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 30, the second straight match in which the Claret and Cobalt put four past their opponent. For head coach Jason Kreis, it was nice to see his side avoid a potential letdown following a 4-0 defeat of the Columbus Crew on Aug. 24.
"I really wasn't (worried), but typically I am," Kreis said after the match. "I think, right now, we're at that time of year where I don't think you have to be too worried about motivating the players or getting them to respond after too good of a game or too bad of a game. I think that we all know what's in front of us. The opportunity has presented itself for us, and I think that should mean that every game will get our maximum effort."
It will be interesting to see what type of role Kyle Beckerman plays for Real Salt Lake on Friday. The Salt Lake talisman enjoyed a 90-minute performance for the United States against Mexico on Tuesday, making his inclusion for the club's starting XI on Friday a doubt. But should Salt Lake get an edge, Beckerman could feature off the bench to add some professionalism and close out the match.