Backs Against The Wall: RSL Playoff Hopes Hang In The Balance On Decision Day

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SANDY UT- JULY 17: Head coach Mike Petke of Real Salt Lake gestures on the sideline during the International friendly game against Manchester United at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 17, 2017 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

Editorial (October 17, 2017)Real Salt Lake are one point below the red line with one game to go in the MLS regular season. They’ve had a marvelous comeback year behind Head Coach Mike Petke. They have dropped points in their last two games, both against non-playoff teams. RSL’s playoff hopes now hang by a thread.

Backs Against The Wall: RSL Playoff Hopes Hang In The Balance On Decision Day

RSL sit in 8th place in the Western Conference. They can finish no higher than sixth (the last playoff spot). To do that, they need to jump FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, who are one point ahead of them.

The schedule does not favor RSL. They host Sporting KC on Decision Day. The other two have home games against non-playoff teams. Dallas host LA Galaxy. San Jose play Minnesota United FC. With the schedule, FiveThirtyEight.com has RSL’s playoff chances at 11%. Not good.

In many ways, their last two games were missed opportunities. RSL played an away game at LA Galaxy. They managed a 1-1 draw at the death despite a first half red card to Marcelo Silva. They out shot Colorado Rapids 30-2 on Sunday, but lost 1-0. That’s one point from two games against the two worst teams in the conference. Not good enough.

That said, both of these performances had positives. They were able to gut out a result down a man in LA. They did everything but score on the Rapids. Head Coach Mike Petke wants to build on these performances to get a result. “We are going to fight to the end just like we did tonight. Next week is a huge game for us. We have to wait for other results that day as well but we are going to go out to win,” Petke said after the game on Sunday.

They’ll still need some help to make it to the post season. If Dallas or San Jose win, they are eliminated. If they don’t get a result against Sporting, they are eliminated.

“This was definitely a missed opportunity for us but we are definitely not eliminated. We will go home tonight, get back to work this week and we will prepare for the last game,” said center back David Horst. “We have to take care of business, we can’t worry about other teams right now. If we take care of business next weekend, then we can worry about what other teams do.”

They’ll just have to focus on beating Sporting KC, as forward Brooks Lennon said: “Obviously, we need to focus on what we need to do. Going into next week, our main focus is to win because that’s the only thing we can do. Go back to Salt Lake and start training, focusing on Sporting KC, and preparing the best we can to get that win.”

Sporting will have something to play for as well. They can still finish as high as second in the Western Conference. They have one of the worst away records among playoff teams, so home field advantage is invaluable to them. This is one of the only west vs. west Decision Day matches that features two teams with something to play for.

We’ll see who can get a result. The RSL playoff hopes depend on it.

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