With three wins in its past four games (two in MLS action) Toronto FC is finally starting to roll.
But Saturday brings a Real test for the club.
Pardon the bad pun and also look past Real Salt Lake’s poor 1-3-1 record, because make no mistake, this is a quality team.
Real Salt Lake is the defending MLS Cup champion and it will be playing for just the second time all season in the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Toronto was drilled 3-0 there last season.
This time around, the Reds will have to deal with the altitude and some bitterly cold weather just three days after beating the Montreal Impact 2-0 in a bruising affair that cost two defensive subs.
Ty Harden and Nick Garcia did not make the trip to Salt Lake City.
With midfielder Amadou Sanyang still a question mark, the lineup is getting frighteningly thin.
Martin Saric was rested for the Montreal game, but comes into Salt Lake carrying a yellow card and a reputation as a player for referees to watch.
If Saric is handed another yellow, TFC would be in a deep hole, so it’s possible the more offensive-minded Jacob Peterson — who played well against Montreal — could start in his place.
Fellow midfielder Sam Cronin is another option, but he was just so-so against the Impact.
As if a lineup that has been cut to the bone — literally in Harden’s case — isn’t bad enough, Toronto will be coming in without proper rest.
TFC played Wednesday just three days after its previous contest which took place ... three days following the previous game.
TFC plays seven times in the next month — five on the road.
What all that means is that, once again, nobody should be expecting TFC to be running its opponent off the pitch.
Though head coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic was angry that his side didn’t press the issue when it went a man up on Montreal on Wednesday, this will be a completely different situation.
Slow and steady should be the way and the team’s mission should be to try to escape with a point against a hungry team that is due for a win.
On the flip side, there is the school of thought that TFC should pounce on a wounded squad.
RSL’s top player Javier Morales is expected to miss the game because of strep throat.
He was originally slated to return after missing a game and entering as a substitute in another because of a groin injury. Morales has three goals and an assist this season to lead RSL.
To make matters worse for Real Salt Lake, another of its key offensive threats, forward Fabian Espindola, is highly doubtful as is defender Ned Grabavoy.
There is a chance defenders Chris Wingert and Jamison Olave and forward Robbie Findley can go.
It will be tempting for Preki to try to take advantage of RSL’s weakened state, but considering the difficult road ahead , the altitude and his own lack of depth, expect a conservative approach.