The scheduling gods did Real Salt Lake no favors. Their regular season concludes a week earlier than the rest of the league's, as they are the odd club out of the 23 for Decision Day. Furthermore, they may be heavily shorthanded during their midweek game against the New England Revolution on Thursday (9 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
RSL may be without as many as five regular members of their starting lineup due to suspensions (Kyle Beckerman and Sunny) plus international duty (Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino). Between the five, they represent three of the team's top five scorers, their three top assist getters and three of the top six in minutes played.
So, who needs to step up for Mike Petke's side?
GOAL: Corey Baird makes it 5 for RSL
Baird said Wednesday that RSL believes they need six points from their final two games to make the playoffs. On Thursday, he'll likely be the lead attacking outlet in the first step of that mission.
"It's going to take two wins, that's how we're looking at it," Baird told MLSsoccer.com. "I think we're capable of it. Everyone is looking forward to these games."
The MLS Rookie of the Year favorite has scored seven goals this season, most recently finding the back of the net in a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City. It was Baird's first start in six games, and one that Rusnak didn't start in because he traveled to KC late. It's one of only two goals since July 4 for the rookie Homegrown, as the collective nature of RSL's attack has kept up a decent pace without the 22-year-old hitting the back of the net. Yet the attack will probably rely heavily on Baird against the Revs.
Before the season started, who would have guessed Kreilach to be RSL's leading scorer? Who would have guessed he'd be a center forward and Brooks Lennon would be the team's right back?
But with key players missing in the heart of midfield, Kreilach will likely drop back from a false 9 role to his more accustomed position on Thursday, like he did in their loss to Portland. One of the few players in central midfield or attacking positions who will be 100 percent available for selection, Kreilach, like Baird, will have raised responsibilities.
CHANCE: Justen Glad hustles back to make clutch clearance
Like the first two highlighted, Glad has been a regular member of the RSL starting XI this season. Close to ever-present, in fact: Glad has started every single one of his team's 32 games. Rather than looking to reserves who haven't played as much to step up, Petke's group need their most trusted players to carry them vs. the Revs.
The 21-year-old center back is one of the constants in the team. Alongside Nick Rimando and Lennon, Glad will provide familiarity in a changed XI. And he'll need to be on top of his game.
New England's attack hasn't quite set the league ablaze in 2018, but it's also not one to be overlooked. A clean sheet would be hugely welcome for RSL, especially in the likely absence of three players with as much attacking nous as Rusnak, Savarino and Plata.