SANDY, Utah – In the past two weeks, Real Salt Lake played one game and fell from 1st to 4th place in the Western Conference standings.
The one game, a deflating 2-1 loss to FC Dallas in which the Claret-and-Cobalt were up a man throughout the second half and still gave up two goals, directly led to FCD jumping over RSL into third place on the goals scored tiebreaker.
Add a couple of wins by the LA Galaxy and a win and a tie for the Seattle Sounders and, if the playoffs were to start right now, RSL would be playing Vancouver in the play-in game.
Still, RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters he's not worried. And he's not particularly concerned about the loss in Dallas, seeing it more as “a bump in the road.”
“We've been playing well,” Cassar told reporters.
He added that the Dallas loss was “a little on me. I was worrying about what they could do to us, and I really needed to concentrate on what we needed to do to them.
“And so our posture was a little bit different from typical. ... Once they scored the goal on the set play, we started chasing the game a little bit. And that falls on me.”
RSL defender Chris Wingert said he's not worried that his team will suffer any sort of hangover from the loss when they travel to play the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“Of course, we're bummed to lose a game that we were in and we felt like we should've won – or at least come out of there with a result, being up a man,” he said.
Not helping the situation any was the fact that both the Sounders and Galaxy posted wins over the weekend to take over the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.
“Anytime the West is playing the West, you kind of hope for a draw,” Wingert said. “But at the same time, these results aren't that bad with keeping those other teams down. Because the first goal is to make the playoffs.”
And in the past couple of weeks, RSL's chances of making the playoffs have improved because of what Cassar calls “separation” in the standings.
There's little separation among the four teams at the top of the West – although Seattle (45 points) and LA (43) have each played one less game than Dallas (42) and Salt Lake (42). But then there's a nine-point gap between the FCD/RSL duopoly and fifth-place Vancouver. The bottom four teams also trail RSL by anywhere from 11 to 18 points.
Wingert said the team has an eye on the standings.
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“Of course, you want to finish in the top three so you miss that wild-card game,” he said. “But the main goal right now is make sure we at least get in the playoffs.
“So by LA beating Vacouver and Seattle beating Portland and games like that, where it's kind of pushing those other teams down a little bit, I guess is not the worst thing in the world.”
Still, Salt Lake hasn't given up hope of doing better than fourth place.
“I just know it’s tight up there,” said goalkeeper Nick Rimando, “and if we concentrate on ourselves, the results will come. We can’t rely too much who’s on top, who’s on bottom, who’s behind us. We’ve got to rely on ourselves about getting results.”
Scott Pierce covers Real Salt Lake for MLSsoccer.com