SANDY, Utah – Stuck in last place in the MLS Western Conference, Real Salt Lake have seven games left to preserve their seven-year streak of playoff appearances. The main problem is four of them will be on the road.
RSL have not won a road game in almost exactly four months, losing eight straight games away from the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium. Their last victory on the road, a 2-1 win on May 9, came against the Chicago Fire, a team that is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference. Since that win, RSL have been outscored in road games by a total of 24 goals to seven.
RSL returned to practice Tuesday morning at America First Field with renewed determination after a bye last week. A handful of players were missing due to international duty as the team prepared for their upcoming trip to Houston (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE) and the stretch run ahead.
“What we’re trying to do is create an environment this week that’s really competitive, very intense,” head coach Jeff Cassar said after practice. “Hopefully that’s going to transfer over to the game on Saturday.”
Salt Lake are not mathematically eliminated from postseason play yet, but the odds are not looking good. If the Utah club is to stand a chance at reaching the playoffs in the crucible that is the Western Conference, they must find a way to win on the road.
The good news: The last time RSL made the trip to BBVA Compass Stadium, Javier Morales scored the first of five goals 15 seconds into the match, kick-starting a 5-2 demolition of the Dynamo – RSL's first time claiming all three points on a trip to South Texas.
- Find more RSL coverage at RealSaltLake.com
Not much needs to be said to the players, said Cassar. They are fully aware of the task ahead of them.
“We know already,” Morales said. “We have to be smart and go game by game. Now we have to play Houston and try to get three points. We already know it’s going to be tough, but I think the best thing right now is going game by game.”
Said midfielder Luke Mulholland: “We’ve got seven games and we’ve got to win five-plus games to get into the playoffs. It’s definitely a tough ask. We know the odds are against us, but it was nice to get away and now come back refreshed and ready just to give our all.”