The current basement dwellers in the Western Conference, Austin FC, hope to put a wrench in the playoff aspirations of Real Salt Lake when they welcome Claret and Cobalt to Q2 Stadium for the first time on Saturday.
In their previous MLS encounter, the Verde-and-Black fell 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids, while Salt Lake climbed further up the standings thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
As their opening season in Major League Soccer begins to wind down, Austin have a chance to foil the playoff dreams of numerous sides in the weeks to come.
Though qualifying for the postseason is not technically impossible, Josh Wolff's side are 15 points back of that final spot with only seven games remaining, so it seems unlikely.
This team have played well in stretches over a number of 90-minute encounters but have usually been outclassed in the end by some experienced squads like they were on Wednesday against the Burgundy Boys.
Moving forward, Austin will want to show their fans that the club is heading in the right direction with a few more wins to end the year.
After starting their home campaign going scoreless in their first two contests, they have been a lot sharper in the final third lately, particularly at Q2 Stadium, having found the back of the net 13 times in their last six games.
Wednesday was only the third time that they had been shut out in their last 10 outings in the Texas capital, which has to be an encouraging step forward for this young team, who have failed to score in 11 total matches this year.
Less than a week after an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers, Pablo Mastroeni saw his side shake off that loss with a strong showing against the Galaxy.
They have had to work hard to stay above the playoff line, but their resiliency has been evident throughout the year, and it is that mentality which currently sees them sitting five points above the eighth place Vancouver Whitecaps.
Salt Lake will need to put forth some better efforts on the road to remain in their current position or ideally move higher up the standings.
Claret and Cobalt have lost six of their last seven matches away from home, getting outscored 22-11 over that stretch.
Mastroeni appears to have a lot of faith in the depth of this team, inserting four RSL Academy products into the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Salt Lake won three of their four fixtures last month in the final 20 minutes of action, including a dramatic 95th-minute winner versus the Galaxy this week.
There were wholesale changes to the Verde-and-Black starting 11 on Wednesday, a sign that they may be playing for next season as Andrew Tarbell replaced Brad Stuver in goal, while Austin-born McKinze Gaines began as one of the team's central strikers.
Ulises Segura and Aaron Schoenfeld remain sidelined with left knee problems, while Danny Hoesen is enduring some recurring hip issues, Ben Sweat continues to miss time with an ACL injury, and Matt Besler has a concussion.
In the first meeting between these sides, Bobby Wood scored the lone goal and the Salt Lake back four of Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Toni Datkovic and Ashtone Morgan held Austin to just one shot on target.
Wood will not be available for this encounter as he is suspended, while Zack Farnsworth and Marcelo Silva all have undisclosed injuries.
Austin FC possible starting lineup:
Stuver; Romana, Kleemann, Lima, Jimenez; Pereira, Pochettino, Dominguez, Gallagher; Gaines, Driussi
Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Herrera, Glad, Holt, Datkovic; Ruiz, Luiz, Besler; Rusnak; Kreilach, Rubin
We say: Austin FC 1-2 Real Salt Lake
Austin have improved their play at home while showing a lot more potency in the final third, but more often than not, Salt Lake seem to be able to do just enough to get by and we should expect them to do that again this weekend.
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