SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake pulled even on points for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference on Saturday.
With one point separating fifth through eighth in the Western Conference, why couldn’t RSL be a playoff team?
They have only lost twice since the start of July, both times on the road in Canada. They have been playing well after their slow first four months of the season and perhaps the easiest answer, there may be only one way to do it — win all of their remaining games.
“We do know we depend on other results. It would be ideal if they all drop points any time soon. We just try to win the rest of the games in the season. All we can do is try and win the rest of the games and look at ourselves in the mirror,” Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak said.
Each of the other three teams fighting for the fifth and sixth spots have an extra opportunity or two to pick up points with games in hand. Salt Lake has four games, two at home and two on the road, before the season ends on Oct. 22. The scenarios are tight and may get even tighter as the season ends, but FC Dallas has only managed four points in their last nine games and teams will have to play one another down the stretch so having an extra game doesn’t mean teams will get the full points out of it.
Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke took the time to check the San Jose-Houston score as he walked into his postgame press conference and even if Salt Lake was only above the red line for a little while, he was happy.
“We’re in fifth place at the moment,” Petke said. “I’ll enjoy it for the last whatever of the Houston-San Jose game.”
Though Petke knows what needs to happen around the league, he knows, more importantly, that Salt Lake is playing well enough to contend for the playoffs.
“If we tie with Houston, I believe they have us head to head. Regardless, to be there right now for the moment is a credit to the guys. I’m just a bozo who screams on the sideline and throughout the week to try to get them to listen to me. Once the whistle blows, I have no control. Credit to the players for the last couple of months to be in the position that they’re in right now.”
Petke probably doesn’t have to work too hard for his team to believe there’s a path to the playoffs with their current form, but that little extra bit of belief can mean a lot whether it’s on the practice field or in a game.
“There’s always work to be done,” RSL center back Justen Glad said. “I believe (we can make the playoffs). Everyone on this team believes it. Mike believes it. We’re good enough to be in the playoffs. It comes down to these last couple games. If we can put in the work and get some results, we’re right back in it.”
Salt Lake has at least caught what they were chasing, and now are in a battle with three other teams to stay above the red line.