Real Salt Lake ended the regular season with a nervy win over Chivas USA, securing in the process at least a second-place seed in the Western Conference in the impending playoffs and setting the stage for the final weekend of the regular season.
Play through the first half was a bit back and forth and frenetic, which surely didn't help RSL - play was entirely too open and nothing really looked like it would end in a goal. Yordany Alvarez and Kyle Beckerman in the same side - the same positioning, roughly, as last weekend in Portland - were perhaps a bit too defensive. Against Portland, they looked effective, but the attacking impetus required against a very shaky Chivas side required a bit more attacking finesse than the pairing offered.
And so it was that Javier Morales returned to the side, coming in at the second half for Alvarez. Morales sat out last match through suspension, but injury kept him from training most of the week and nearly kept him out of this one. But his impact was huge, building play from the midfield where it was so often lacking in the first half, setting off the play that led to a penalty goal for Saborio and playing a big role in a Plata goal from the edge of the box.
Plata's goal was a significant one, putting Real Salt Lake up 2-0 and marking his first goal in nearly two months - since the 4-2 win over Portland. It was also the second he scored against Chivas, as he opened his Real Salt Lake account with a road goal in May.
Saborio's goal was a well-taken penalty to the right of former RSL third-string goalkeeper Tim Melia; the penalty call leading up to it was perhaps slightly fortunate as Mario De Luna leaned in with his arm to block a Javier Morales shot.
Early in the first half, Lovel Palmer sustained what may be a hamstring strain; he was withdrawn in the ninth minute for Tony Beltran. Alvarez was withdrawn at the half to allow Morales an entrance, and Joao Plata exited in the 62nd minute, with Robbie Findley taking his place.
Playing as the odd team for the final week, Portland Timbers, Sporting KC, and New York Red Bulls will all need results to jump ahead of RSL; New York needs only a draw or a high-scoring loss (at least four goals) over Chicago Fire, Sporting KC need a win over Philadelphia, and Portland Timbers need a win over Chivas USA. It's all a bit unlikely, but should those teams fail to get results, Real Salt Lake will win the Supporters Shield. In a sense, the regular season hasn't ended at all for RSL - the weekend will be huge for the club, even as they don't play.