Petke: Real Salt Lake to "see what we're made of" as playoff race tightens

SANDY, Utah – For a moment on Saturday, Real Salt Lake dipped below the playoff line as the LA Galaxy led against Sporting KC and RSL trailed Portland.

Both matches took some twists and turns, and despite losing, Salt Lake remain in the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot heading into their final two games. The 4-1 loss to Portland ended RSL’s 14-game unbeaten streak at home, however, and puts a lot more what-ifs into play than if they’d emerged with the typical three points.

“It’s nice being above the playoff line,” RSL defender Justen Glad said. “It would have been nicer to be three points higher and kind of more out of reach. We’ll take the next two games, handle our business and hopefully it won’t matter where LA, Vancouver and all of them are at.”

At the moment, the Galaxy and RSL are separated by one point. Vancouver, with a game in hand, sit three points back of Salt Lake. Seattle and Portland are most likely out of reach, so the three teams have three weeks and probably a tiebreaker or two left to figure it out.

“Now it’s going to be an interesting last two games,” Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke said.  “We’re going to see what we’re made of.”

RSL host the New England Revolution on Oct. 18, then end their regular season with a huge game at Portland three days later.

Salt Lake midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Sunny will be suspended for the New England game because of yellow-card accumulation. Toss in the international break, and Petke said he isn’t sure if he’ll have Albert Rusnak or Jefferson Savarino in a position to play meaningful minutes after their travel and play with their national teams.

“We have players who are ready to step up and make their mark,” Glad said.

Adding some energy to the hunt for a playoff spot should help, since that was partly what Salt Lake were missing on Saturday, despite finding a second-half equalizer via Savarino.

“We had energy for a bit when we equalized, and a little bit more after, and we let it slip away,” Petke said. “Our inability to create energy is a credit to Portland and their bite, which we didn’t seem to have.”

Whatever RSL blame the loss on, it’s clear there’s an even smaller margin of error going forward if they want to stay ahead of the Galaxy and Whitecaps.

“We have to figure out another course. We’re going to see what we’re made of – we still do control our destiny, and it’s going to be two very tough games,” Petke said.