SANDY, Utah — The last time Real Salt Lake faced the LA Galaxy, things were very different for both sides.
Before the team’s June 20 meeting, RSL were top of the table at 10-3-2 with 32 points and looked to be well on their way to a Supporter's Shield. The Galaxy, meanwhile, had struggled mightily the first third of the season and sat at 4-8-2 and 14 points.
Things changed after Real blew a 2-0 lead in that game to lose 3-2. RSL went on a summer swoon, while the Galaxy righted the ship to get back to the playoffs. But coach Jason Kreis and the rest of the team have pushed that loss from their minds ahead of Saturday night’s game at the Home Depot Center (9 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“We only talk about performances and don't bring up too often past results, and I feel like our performances are heading in the right direction,” said Kreis.
Nearly three months later, there is still plenty on the line. RSL (16-11-4, 52 points) are in second place in the Western Conference, with LA (15-11-5, 50 points) nipping at their heels. Both clubs are just in front of Seattle (13-7-10, 49 points with a game in hand).
A win would go a long way toward guaranteeing that the Claret and Cobalt could avoid a No. 4 or 5 seed, which comes with a one-game play-in to join the rest of the playoff field.
"We know what is at stake, but so does LA," said defender Chris Wingert. "We just want to forget about our opponent, focus on ourselves, and we want to go out and play our best soccer and not worry about anything else."
Real know who their opponent are — the defending MLS champs and the team that knocked them from the playoffs, 3-2, in the Western Conference Finals last season — but they try not to focus on that.
“We know that if we play our style of soccer and play at our best, we are capable of playing against anyone,” Wingert said.
If Real are to continue getting favorable results — they were 5-1-0 in all competitions in September — they know they need to keep up their strong defensive play. RSL has posted shutouts in five of their last seven games and have given up only two goals in that span.
With second place on the line, and only two games left in the regular season after this one, RSL are abundantly aware of what’s at stake.
"As far as we are concerned, the playoffs started weeks ago,” Tony Beltran said, “and we want to concentrate on getting results each game and that doesn't change just because we are playing the Galaxy.”