Real Salt Lake had a ray of sunshine fall on an otherwise cold and rainy day with a 1-0 win over Chivas USA in a postseason grudge match Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The game was decided by RSL forward Jamie Watson, who came in for Kevin Novak at the half and chipped the ball over Chivas 'keeper Sergio Garcia in the 60th minute.
"Very pleased," responded RSL head coach John Ellinger when asked how he felt about the match's outcome. "We talked before the game about what we needed to do, in the end I think it paid off for us, particularly in the second half."
RSL fought hard for possession in the first half of the match, when the ball seemed to always be at the feet of the Chivas. But in the second half things turned around for RSL, perhaps due to some of the home team's players' thoughts of whether they'd be playing for RSL again in 2006.
"You're kind of playing for your spot next season," said RSL midfielder Chris Brown. "You have to have the mindset to come out and win. I think the effort was always there, but tonight it was about finishing our chances."
Thoughts of where players would find themselves next season seemed to be on the minds of most players. Real has recently invited several trial players to train with them, and the team is of course limited to 28 roster spots.
"Everyone's fighting for their spot," said Real'keeper Jay Nolly. "I worked as hard as I could to stake my claim. The win gives us something to look at for next year."
The win also allows RSL fans to look forward to next season, and lets them walk away from Rice-Eccles with their heads held a little higher. During regular season play, RSL split the series with their expansion brethren, each side winning twice at home.
"We took the season serious," said RSL forward Jamie Watson. "3-2 just proves that they're the worst team in the league."
Neil Wyler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.