LEHI, Utah — After 33 MLS league games spanning seven months, there is a still a lot at stake for Real Salt Lake as the regular-season campaign comes to a close against expansion side Portland Timbers on Saturday night (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“Most teams don’t have anything to play for coming down to this last game of the season," noted midfielder Will Johnson. "But we’re one of the lucky teams who have something to play for, and that’s huge going into the playoffs.”
On the line against Portland is playoff seeding and a potential return ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League. A win will ensure that RSL retain the third position in the West, which guarantees a spot in the CCL tournament if RSL, the LA Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders advance to the MLS Cup final.
“Last year going into the last game of the season, it was a completely almost nothing game,” manager Jason Kreis said. “It was an away game at Colorado and we played really, really poorly. You could see again a game where the right amount of motivation wasn’t there, and that led to not enough commitment.
"When we play that way, we most of the time lose. We were very lucky to tie that one at the end, and we went into the playoffs with no confidence and no flow, and none of the right mental attitude.”
Thursday night’s victory by the New York Red Bulls may have snuffed out Portland’s precarious playoff hopes before they venture into Rio Tinto Stadium, but Kreis’ team will have something to play for.
“I want this game to be extremely meaningful, and it is,” Kreis explained. “I think that’s going to be a good thing to get us ready now.”
If his team plays well and gets the result they are hoping for, Kreis feels like his squad will perhaps be better toned for the postseason than they were a year ago, when they cruised through most of the season as one of the most dominant teams in the league.
“Maybe that’s the glass half full through all of this,” Kreis continued. “Maybe that’s the silver lining in all these difficult times. We’ve put our backs against the wall for our last two matches which will hopefully prepare us for the playoffs.”