SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake failed to clinch a playoff berth on Wednesday night, through no fault of their own. And the team isn't sweating it.
If Colorado had beaten or tied San Jose, RSL would have clinched extending their run of consecutive playoffs appearances to six — which would tie as the second-longest streak in MLS history. But the Rapids fell 1-0 to the Earthquakes. And RSL are not counting on other teams for help.
“We expect to be in the playoffs,” veteran defender Nat Borchers told MLSsoccer.com. “Whatever happens this weekend, we're going to have to take care of it against Portland.”
Salt Lake are in the midst of a two-week break; the team returns to action in Portland on Saturday, Oct. 19, when — no matter what happens between now and then — they know a win will put them in the postseason.
After Wednesday's games, no team in the Western Conference has secured playoff berths. Seattle's second-consecutive stunning loss — a 4-1 defeat at home to Vancouver after Saturday's 5-1 loss at Colorado — left RSL with a tenuous one-point lead over the Sounders. But sixth-place San Jose sit just five points out of first, and seventh-place Vancouver remains in the running as well.
Borchers said he is keeping an eye on games during RSL's break, but midfielder Luis Gil insisted he is not.
“I really don't care too much about other teams,” Gil told MLSsoccer.com.. “Especially the way we are right now and the way we're playing. I really don't focus on them.”
It is an unusual position to be in this late in the season. RSL are battling to finish atop the Western Conference while at the same time battling for a playoff berth, and with two games remaining, the Supporters' Shield remains within reach. Whether it will still be a possibility when RSL travel to Portland and then host Chivas USA on Oct. 23 is out of Salt Lake's hands.
“If it's still there for the taking when we come back, we're going to go for it,” Borchers said. “If it's not, then we're going to have to play good soccer and go into the playoffs on a high note.”