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RSL’s schedule will be the playoff tipping point

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In what direction will RSL’s schedule tip them? Wins — and losses — will be the difference.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

For the past two months, we’ve alternated between talking about Real Salt Lake’s chances of making the playoffs as either some sort of cruel joke or an intense long-shot — or, more recently, about how we’ve got basically no chance unless we really turn things around in a major way.

Well, we’re sitting here now with three wins from four games and only one loss since July. It’s the sort of run that’s giving us a real chance at the playoffs, and while it will still take a Herculean effort to make it there, things are looking, for once, truly feasible. It still might take four wins from our last six matches, but especially given other teams have games in hand on us — everyone except Portland in the west — we can look at our last six matches with a real sense of opportunity.

Sept 9: Vancouver vs. RSL

We’ve played three more matches than Vancouver, and we’re three points behind them — but beating them would give us a better shot at keeping them in touching distance.

Sept. 16: RSL vs. Portland

We’re only six points behind Portland and level on games played. Pulling within three points of them — or, if they can’t manage a result against New York City FC and we do against Vancouver, level — would hugely shift the dynamic of this playoff push.

Sept. 23: RSL vs. Seattle

We’re seven points away from Seattle, whose last loss came on June 17. We’ve played one more game. We shouldn’t really speculate about the results of the last two matches here, simply because it would lead to a few too many conditionals to really be productive. Just know that it’s yet another team in a playoff position that we’ll be jockeying with here. Before this, they face LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, the latter of whom we’ll also be jockeying with.

Sept. 30: LA Galaxy vs. RSL, Oct. 15: Colorado vs. RSL

Neither of these teams is looking like a playoff contender right now, but by the time we reach this point, we really have to beat them to have a good opportunity. Hopefully, they present easy targets.

Oct. 22: RSL vs. Sporting Kansas City

Right now, SKC is five points ahead of us. Again, prior results will make a huge difference to this point — but it is absolutely feasible that we’ll be facing Sporting Kansas City with the playoffs on the line — and maybe for both of us. We’ll catch up on this one in a couple weeks, of course, but this will be hugely interesting.

The wild card: FC Dallas

While we don’t face anyone in the Eastern Conference, FC Dallas has three matches left against opponents on the opposite side. What difference will that make? That’s a question we’ll have to answer in a month.