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RSL fans get final chance to watch Pope

Tonight is all about Eddie Pope at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The veteran is calling it a career after this season, and with two games remaining, tonight's match against Houston is the final opportunity for Real Salt Lake fans to see the greatest U.S. defender in history.

Tonight's 7 o'clock kickoff is also fan appreciation night, and that's just as important to RSL coach Jason Kreis.

"I think we all want to win in the very worst way," said Kreis. "I think we would all like to leave a very nice taste in the mouths of all the people who've supported us for a full three seasons, and I think there are quite a few that have stuck with this team from the very beginning. We realize they deserve more."

A win over Houston, a team RSL beat back on Aug. 4, would be a great way to wrap a very disappointing 2007 season.

Salt Lake's players refuse to look at it that way. They prefer to view the season as two parts. Prior to the all-star break, RSL was on pace to break numerous league records for futility with a 1-8-6 record. Since the break, however, the club is 4-6-3 and starting to build momentum for next season.

"I've always been a huge believer that what you put into something you're going to get out," said Kreis. "So I think the guys putting in the extremely hard work that they have for a long time, that's why we are competing now and why we're doing better."

The fan-appreciation night festivities include $5 tickets to the North End Zone section, a soccer clinic on the field for season ticket holders at 5:30 and a drawing for fans to win a trip to RSL's regular-season finale at Colorado this Saturday. The winner of the that match will be crowned 2007 Rocky Mountain Cup champions.

With the playoffs long since out of reach, the Rocky Mountain Cup isn't the only thing RSL has to play for. It's tied with Toronto for the worst record in MLS with 24 points, and a win over the Dynamo would ensure that RSL doesn't finish all alone at the bottom of the MLS standings.

RSL will be without Chris Seitz and Robbie Findley against Houston, the latter of which scored the game winning goal against Houston two months ago.

The two MLS rookies have been called into U.S. National Team camp in preparation for Wednesday's international friendly in Basel, Switzerland, against the Swiss National Team.

"It's definitely an honor to represent the United States in this training camp. It's a dream come true, really," said Findley. "Growing up I always wanted to represent the U.S. on the field and now I'm going into this camp and looking to make a statement and earn more opportunities."

As for Seitz, this is his second call-up to the U.S. senior squad, having sat on the bench for the United State's match against Brazil in early September.

Even though RSL doesn't have much to play for, Houston has plenty. The defending MLS champs trail Chivas USA by four points for the best mark in the Western Conference, and a victory would close that gap to one point with one weekend remaining.

RSL on the air

Houston (14-8-6) at Real Salt Lake (5-14-9)

Tonight, 7 p.m.; at Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: DirectKick; Radio: AM700


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com