(Photo credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Real Salt Lake can take another step toward clinching its spot in the postseason on Sunday when it visits a San Jose Earthquakes squad that has looked stalled in recent weeks.
Salt Lake (11-9-7, 40 points) snapped a two-game slide with a 2-0 victory over the last-place Colorado Rapids two weekends ago before the September international break.
It was RSL's first points earned since losing influential midfielder Pablo Ruiz to season-ending knee surgery earlier in August, due to an injury sustained during the 2023 League Cup.
And while the timing of that procedure -- coming after the close of the secondary transfer window -- means there's no time to find a like-for-like alternative, the Claret and Cobalt are hopeful they can begin to do so by committee.
"It's not about trying to replace (Pablo)," said striker Cristian Arango after scoring the second goal in the win through an interpreter. "It's about accepting that he won't be with us and taking the positive from things. Obviously, it's not positive that a teammate gets injured, but we players who are here have to take on responsibility."
Salt Lake sits fourth in a crowded Western Conference table entering the weekend, only one point out of second.
The Quakes (9-9-10, 37 points) are in eighth, with only a four-point cushion above the playoff line following a four-match winless run.
The last two of those were draws, including a scoreless stalemate at D.C. United last weekend, in which San Jose was the more threatening team during the first half.
The game shifted after halftime, and the Quakes had to hold on to earn a point following the 90th-minute ejection of Tanner Beason.
Cristian Espinoza leads the club with 12 goals, and Jeremy Ebobisse has eight. But with no one else scoring more than three, manager Luchi Gonzalez could use a third player to step up as a goal-scoring threat.
"If there's anything I know about our group, all season long and on and off the field, it is that they respond," Gonzalez said. "These guys respond. I see it, I believe it, and I am proud of them for that. I am excited for them to show that again."
--Field Level Media