There's been talk of playoffs this week.
The numbers have been crunched, the math has been double-checked - I'm a words guy, so someone much smarter assured me its correct - and LAFC can secure a playoff spot with a win and a dropped points from FC Dallas.
While it all seems a bit anticlimactic, LAFC has held the top spot in the West since Week 4, the chance to clinch against the side that knocked LAFC out of the playoffs last year is a bit of added intrigue. Not to mention LAFC's chance to equal its best winning streak of the season by ending Real Salt Lake's three-match win streak.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC's away trip to Real Salt Lake:
Don't Let Them In
When Mark-Anthony Kaye spoke to the media this week after training, he singled out the ability of Real Salt Lake's attacking midfielders. The likes of Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnák, and Corey Baird all have ability on the ball and an eye for goal.
Real Salt Lake likes to get these players in space and in 1v1 situations. To do that, they routinely work from outside in against opponents. LAFC's backline and midfield will need to work in conjunction to limit the space. When RSL get into the channels in attacking areas, players will cut inside and look to combine. The Black & Gold have to stay with their runners and disrupt movements inside.
With ball progressors in advanced positions, Real Salt Lake pokes holes in opponents by going forward quickly in transition.
LAFC's midfield trio will need to work in tandem to keep a solid structure when the team goes forward. If the gap between midfield and the backline gets stretched, RSL will be able to get those playmakers on the ball with time and a retreating defense.
There has to be a balance of when to run at RSL and when to possess to move the up the pitch in a compact and controlled way.
Fluid Front Three
In previous matches between these two, Real Salt Lake has been unapologetic in its selling out to stop Carlos Vela. Each time the LAFC captain touches the ball, two and three players crowd him immediately.
The best way to oppose this is by finding Vela on the move. If LAFC consistently play to Vela at a standstill, the task of beating multiple players off the dribble will take its toll.
Adama Diomande and Diego Rossi will need to look for ways to drop off and face up the RSL backline. Create that yard of space to force RSL defenders to step out of position. Those movements will open windows and opportunities for Vela to run off the ball. If RSL can't count on Vela receiving the ball in one spot, they'll have a tough time getting close enough to disrupt the top scorer in MLS.