It all comes down to this game. Real Salt Lake are away to Sporting Kansas City and a win will see them into the playoffs. A draw or loss and they’re done. SKC are coming off two losses (Austin and Minnesota), both of which were on the road. They’ve been excellent at home this season, having only lost twice at Children's Mercy Park. Sporting have locked in a home playoff match, but Colorado could overtake them for second should SKC lose and the Rapids beat LAFC. Real Salt Lake still control their destiny and the question is if they have what it takes to beat one of their biggest rivals.
Against the Timbers on Wednesday, RSL had 20 shots, 7 of which were on goal. They’re taking chances, but it’s not enough to get them wins. Their one goal in that game came from a penalty late in the second half. Against San Jose, we saw some great moments of creativity late in the second half when the team was fighting for a result. The ingredients are there to make goals happen, but we’re not seeing that mixture come together until it’s often too late. If RSL want to make the playoffs, they’ll need to get it right from the start.
Defense from the midfield
In a system that frees up the midfield and attack, the three center backs have to get help from the midfield. Portland exploited that system and RSL have to get their midfielders to help the backline more. RSL have scored and conceded 54 goals this season, giving them a 0 goal difference. That’s simply not good enough from a playoff team and we need to see the wing-backs and defensive midfielder provide more coverage.
A must win
This is the first game you can call a true must win, should Real Salt Lake want to make the playoffs. With a win, RSL will clench a playoff berth but that’s a big ask bing away to Sporting Kansas City. A loss or draw means they will not move above the playoff line. Real’s final game in 2020 was against SKC. They lost that game, but David Ochoa made his Major League Soccer debut on that snowy night. The fact that one more win and RSL would already have been locked in for the playoffs makes those losses against teams they should have beaten frustrating, but there’s still a chance at making the postseason.
Out: Zack Farnsworth, Toni Datkovic