SANDY, Utah — For Real Salt Lake, Wednesday's regular-season finale against Chivas USA (9:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE) has a number of implications.
RSL need to win to have any shot at finishing third in the Western Conference, thus avoiding the Knockout Round game. Finishing third could also potentially even land the Claret-and-Cobalt a berth in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League, depending on who wins MLS Cup.
And coach Jeff Cassar and his team are looking for momentum heading into the MSL playoffs.
But there's also a simpler reason, one rooted in pride.
“They beat us twice this year,” defender Tony Beltran told reporters. “They're the worst team in the West. So the pride aspect comes out because we don't want to lose them a third time.
“We're not going to lose to them a third time.”
On June 28, Chivas claimed a 1-0 win in StubHub Center after RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland was red-carded in the ninth minute. On Oct. 5, the Goats claimed a second 1-0 win despite holding just 26 percent of ball possession.
“We've lost two out of two right now, for different reasons,” Cassar said. “One was we went down a man early on the road, and the second was we didn't play with the type of urgency that we normally do.
“But now we're at home. We know what we need to play like at home, and I'm not worried at all.”
The all-time regular-season series between these two clubs, who entered the league together 10 seasons ago, is tied at 12-12-4; RSL lead 13-12-5 in all competitions.
Despite the fact that Chivas USA have been eliminated from playoff contention, Cassar thinks they still have something to play for.
“They're playing for pride. They're playing for jobs,” he said. “It's now an audition. So you're going to probably get the best Chivas has got. I mean, the last month of their year has been their best.”
That certainly applies to the last couple of weeks. Chivas broke an 11-game winless streak (10 of those losses) by beating RSL on Oct. 5, and followed that up with a win over San Jose on Oct. 11.
And Cassar is expecting the Goats to once again sit back, bunker in and look to score on counterattacks.
- Find more RSL news and notes at RealSaltLake.com
“Listen, they've done well the last few games. So it's working,” he said. “When a team sits back, you've got to move the ball quickly. You've got to move ball with an aggressive mind, but not giving the ball away cheaply. Sometimes when you force things, you end up getting [caught] on a counter, and that's what we did in LA
“I think we need to have better final balls, better passes and being dynamic with our movement off the ball to open up space for someone.”
And avoid going 0-3 against one of the league's non-playoff teams.
“We're not too proud of our results against them,” defender Chris Wingert said with a bit of a laugh. “We are where we're at right now. We can't affect anything that's past. We just have to try to win on Wednesday and give ourselves the best shot for finishing in third place. And we'll be happy with that.”