HERRIMAN — Following a two-game win streak on the road, Real Salt Lake is gearing up to take on a tough opponent in the LA Galaxy on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL had two notable road performances starting with a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo where Albert Rusnak scored two record-breaking goals in stoppage time.
Then the team traveled to Commerce City, Colorado to compete for the coveted Rocky Mountain Cup. The team clinched the cup with no problem in a 6-0 victory where young Jefferson Savarino scored two of the six goals and was named the Top Rated Audi Index Player in the league two weeks in a row.
"Good mood right now — the guys are confident," said goalie Nick Rimando. "Looking past that the Rocky Mountain Cup, we're focusing on the Galaxy, but the guys are in high spirits and looking forward to this weekend."
"I just think it's a total mentality of, 'OK it feels like playoff time; the weather's changing a little bit'... We've had some good results and they're feeding off of it," said head coach Mike Petke.
Although RSL has momentum in its favor, the team now has to prepare to face the 6-foot-5 superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the LA Galaxy.
Ibrahimovic is the Galaxy's top player who is known for his height, strength and creative scoring techniques. He currently ranks as the Galaxy's top scorer with 16 goals this season, five of which were game-winners.
"He's the epitome of a man, with his strength, his size, his intimidation," Petke said. "But I think we’ve got to be a bit tougher, you know, I think you're playing a guy like that you can't be intimidated, you can't let him boss you around."
In the last meeting of the two teams in LA, Ibrahimovic help propel the Galaxy toward the win by scoring two goals in the second half to lead the 3-0 blanking of the Claret and Cobalt.
Following the match, he gave RSL players some advice: "Don't make me angry." Ibrahimovic got in a collision where he cleated Justen Glad and which lead to a tête-à-tête with Sunny. Ibrahimovic said the interaction on the field added fuel to his fire.
More is on the line for this match for the two teams as they fight for a shot at the playoffs. With just seven matches left in the season, each important point counts toward securing one of the six postseason spots.
RSL is currently ranked fourth in the West with 41 points while the Galaxy sits just below the cut off at seventh with 38 points. Just eight points separate the first and sixth spots in the West.
"It's a big game for us," Rimando said. "It's a six-point game for us. Obviously we will create some more room between us and the Galaxy if we win... we're looking forward to it, we wanna get those three points bad so hopefully we can do that on Saturday."
The two teams with kick off at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at rsl.com/tickets.