The Western Conference is hotting up.
Over 50,000 watched the California derby which augurs very well for the Earthquakes move to a bigger stadium next year.
Behind the Bay Area side with three straight wins, all is not well though.
Real Salt Lake have lost three straight allowing for a nine point swing between the top two.
Next up for RSL is a Cascadian invasion, Sounders FC on Independence Day. After that cometh the Portland Timbers three days later. Both matches will be at the Rio Tinto stadium, and so will I.
For the first time in my life, I am visiting Salt Lake City and if everyone who has ever talked about SLC is correct, a good time awaits me.
Real Salt Lake are an organisation I have grown to admire for the manner in which they conduct themselves. Their locker room always exudes unity, whether they have won or lost. Their media relations department are open minded and helpful. Their coach is less prone to the post loss excusathon than almost any other.
So far I have only seen them on the road, so this will be a great opportunity to look at how this club do game day from up close.
As President of the North American Soccer Reporters, it is technically my task to keep MLS informed if there are issues with media access on game days. My predecessor Michael C Lewis worked for the Salt Lake Tribune and never had a bad word to say about how RSL conduct their game day operations, so that won’t be a problem.
Instead, I will be able to observe the game and see up close how three clubs all of whom are going through a bumpy stage cope with the adversity.
That includes the supporters of all three sides.
It’s been a while since I observed Sounders fans on the road outside Cascadia. It will be my first glimpse of the traveling band of the Timbers Army, not counting Vancouver as ‘abroad’.
And of course, although I have met some RSL fans at the MLS Cup Final in 2009, this will be the first chance to hear their views on the state of soccer in this country.
It will be a learning experience.
On the playing side, the host club Real Salt Lake have lost three straight games.
This is as close to a crisis as the Utah side has come since 2007 when it last happened. Given they are a comfortable second in the league, many other clubs would welcome that kind of crisis.
Does this present an opportunity for Sounders FC on Independence Day?
The Seattle club can equally claim, if that’s the right word, to be experiencing their worst patch since their entry to Major League Soccer.
They have not won in the last eight league games, a slump hitherto not see in MLS. There were encouraging signs in their 2-2 draw in New England, where they were seconds from victory.
Many players showed better form than they had been recently.
However Osvaldo Alonso picked up a yellow card which leaves him suspended from the match in Utah. It’s a problem Sigi Schmid could do without especially as Kyle Beckerman returns from suspension for the hosts after missing the tame loss in Columbus.
It’s a big game for both sides, probably more so for Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid whose fan base has high expectations and whose ownership team perhaps even higher ones.
If he fails to win in Salt Lake, the ensuing home tie on July 7 with the Colorado Rapids will be a crunch one given the double factors that it could stretch the run without a win to double figures and the relative league placings of the two.
Three days after the Sounders arrive in town, Portland Timbers arrive. From the high of their Cascadia derby win, came the low of another thumping in Colorado.
Before that they have to host the high flying San Jose Earthquakes.
Talking of high flying, it’s time to sign off and head to the airport.
The next bulletin will come from Utah and its 90 degree heat. Come back for further updates on my Utah trip and a safe journey to all the traveling fans heading to a MLS game this week.