LEHI, Utah — With 32 out of 34 games in the books, Real Salt Lake still have plenty on the line. And lest they come up short in the pursuit of a number of goals, they’re being straight-forward about what they need out of the next 180 minutes:
“We have two games to get our crap together,” RSL midfielder Andy Williams said bluntly after practice on Tuesday. “We have two games to get it into gear, and we’re not even focusing on the four-game losing streak.”
For head coach Jason Kreis, that means nailing down what has looked for several weeks to be their likely playoff seeding – third place in the West, with an impending matchup against Seattle. They sit six points behind the Sounders and could theoretically overtake them for second place, but the clubs' current goal differential (they split the season series) makes that an unlikely prospect. So for now, they are focused on keeping fourth-place FC Dallas at bay, and they need four points in these final two games to ensure that.
“We’ve said now since we clinched the playoff spot – we did a little math and figured out that four points would control our destiny and would mean we’d finish third place in the league,” explained Kreis. “And so that has been our objective all along. There [are] two games left. We have to get points in both of them. There are no more excuses”.
This urgency is also focused on taking advantage of another bit of fortune – an open path back to Champions League play. Since both LA Galaxy and Seattle have clinched CCL berths by winning the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup, respectively, that means that a third place regular-season finish combined with either of those two teams reaching MLS Cup would put RSL back into the tournament.
“For me, it is time,” challenged Kreis. “It is time for the men on this team to step up. It is time for them to show that their backs are against the wall. It is time for them to scrap, claw and fight.”
Although they have been limping down the stretch, the team still has the ability to make club history, and that fact isn’t lost on the team boss.
“Last year was our best season ever,” explained Kreis. “We finished with 56 points. If we were to get six points in the last two matches, we finish with 57 points – highest point total ever in our history. That certainly means something to us.”
The rewards are there for the taking, and Kreis is pushing his team to take advantage.
“If we can finish with more points than we ever have,” said Kreis, “if we can show up now, have a positive finish to this season, it will be the most rewarding season that I’ve ever had. Because this has been by far ... the most difficult season that we’ve ever had. It’s been amazing, and it’s still all there for the taking.”