At some point this season, Javier Morales will return to Real Salt Lake, and the central midfielder should provide some level of stability. Until then, though, it sure looks like this team will continue to be somewhat rudderless.
Since Morales went down with a broken leg back in May, RSL has won consecutive games just once. For the most part, the season has been a series small peaks, followed by relatively small valleys. This team has not fallen apart, as much as it's just become kinda aimless.
Coming off a win last week, RSL is now in the middle of a run in which they've lost 4 of 6 and have pretty much fallen out of the Supporters' Shield race, even if they have two matches in hand on the Los Angeles Galaxy. More relevantly, they've fallen seven points behind FC Dallas for the third automatic playoff spot and now find themselves as close to No. 10 as No. 3.
Saturday's game represents one of those games in hand that at least help build the illusion that RSL is on solid footing. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the Philadelphia Union may be just the kind of team RSL needs to play right now.
After a strong start, the Union have hit their own rough patch that has seen them go winless in their past five. In fact, you have to go all the way back to May 28 to find the last time they won two straight. Since then, they have won just twice in 13 matches. Their most recent loss to the Columbus Crew was apparently a particular blow to their collective psyche, and coach Peter Nowak is now advising his players to stop looking at the standings. Their efforts to turn the season around will be a little tougher on Saturday, as they will be without starting center back Carlos Valdes, who has to sit out with yellow card accumulation. Valdes and Danny Califf have each played all but one game this year, meaning we're almost certain to see an inexperienced body back there this week.
Gametime: Saturday, 9 p.m.; Pick: RSL 2-0.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Monday, 5 p.m. (Fox Soccer)
As fragile collective psyche's go, you have to imagine that Sporting are in desperate need of grounding. While still playing quality soccer, Sporting have now blow two late leads in their past four games and a pattern seems to be developing. That last week's loss to FC Dallas and the one to the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 6 both came at home is especially concerning. Sporting have now dropped points in stoppage time in four different games.
On Labor Day, they'll host a LA Galaxy team that is suddenly in need of a win to keep the surging Sounders at bay. Sporting does catch a bit of a break as the Galaxy will be without newly signed forward Robbie Keane as he joins Ireland in their Euro 2012 qualifier. The Galaxy will have the services of Landon Donovan, who will not be joining the United States in Belgium for their friendly. Pick: Tied 1-1.