"Prioritizing home": Real Salt Lake have clear goal for Audi MLS Cup Playoff berth

RSL Cordova Rio Tinto

Home is where the heart is. For Real Salt Lake, it's also where the key to the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs is.

That was the message from head coach Pablo Mastroeni following Wednesday night’s clinical 3-0 disposal of Minnesota United FC at Rio Tinto Stadium, which has become a fortress of sorts for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season.

While currently sixth in the Western Conference standings with 42 points and an 11W-8L-9D record, RSL have the third-highest point total (28; 8W-2L-4D) at home in the current campaign - equal to FC Dallas and behind only Supporters’ Shield frontrunners LAFC and Philadelphia Union, both with 35.

“Prioritizing home [games] is really important to us,” Maestroeni said after the club’s 14-straight home sell-out. “We have a unique home field advantage with both the fans and the altitude and we’re really trying to exploit that.”

Said advantage was on full display against the Loons, as the hosts secured all three points thanks to goals from Sergio Cordova, Jefferson Savarino and Anderson Julio.

Cordova, especially, experienced just how special the Rio Tinto atmosphere can be after fans celebrated his 7th-minute opener by showering him with teddy bears and other stuffed animals they brought to the match to donate to children with cancer.

“It was very beautiful. I wasn’t really expecting it,” the Venezuelan striker said. “It was a very cool moment for the players on the field as well as everyone in the stadium.”

After a quiet start to his RSL career, the 25-year-old loanee from FC Augsburg is finally hitting his stride, scoring in four of his last five games for a total of 8g/2a this season.

“The confidence that I have earned has helped me play a lot better and return to what I do best,” he said. “It really helps that I have the permission to play loose and to make mistakes without having severe consequences, so I continue to grow.

Cordova's resurgence has helped Salt Lake stay in playoff position while riding a four-game unbeaten streak.

"Down the stretch, the goal for our group is pretty basic," Maestroni observed. "You want to win your home games and you want to get results on the road, whatever they look like."

Just what RSL's next road result looks like will be interesting to see, as they're set to visit the slumping LAFC Saturday night (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) in a suddenly must-win game for the hosts.