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RSL needs victory to avoid wild card

Published October 15, 2011 6:30 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Real Salt Lake would desperately like a bye, which is also an apt description of how it has gone about trying to secure one.

RSL just needs to take care of its own business and it will own third place in the MLS Western Conference and won't have to open the playoffs by taking part in the wild card game. It should not be chore. All Real has to do to wrap up third place is beat Portland at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.

The margin for error, however, is thin, especially for a team that hasn't won in five consecutive games.

"We took a look at tape this week and I think we pointed out a lot of things we weren't doing right and I think we corrected tonight," said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando after Friday's 0-0 draw at Colorado. "[The result is] definitely a plus, and I want to say it feels like a win, but it's definitely a step in the right direction."

Having FC Dallas lose in its finale would also be enough, but beating Portland would make everything academic. RSL, which walked away from Friday's game against Colorado with just four shots — none that threatened the Rapids goal, now sits tied with Dallas, which beat Vancouver 2-0 on Saturday night.

RSL coach Jason Kreis credits the focus on defense for the lack of offense vision.

"I think it's something we don't really need to worry about," he said. "I think we just keep our group out there together and get some more time for our attacking-minded players like Javier [Morales], Fabián [Espíndola] and [Álvaro] Saborío. We won't have to deal with international call-ups, I don't think we withstood any suspensions and I don't think we withstood any injuries so perhaps a little consistency will help us next week."

Friday's draw snapped RSL's four-match losing slide, its longest such streak since July 2007. RSL still owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas should the two finish tied.

Friday's tie, and RSL's first shutout in six games, almost didn't happen. Rimando was forced to make only two saves, but both were difficult, including the stop of a 16-yard header by Rapids forward Caleb Folan in the 83rd minute. Moments later, a Folan header rattled the crossbar and bounced straight down and off the goal line before being cleared from the six-yard box by Saborío's bicycle kick.

"He's a big boy and when the ball gets in the air he's going to fight for it," Rimando said of Folan. "Luckily, I saved one and the other hit the post and had the right spin and went out. But in the playoffs we've got to make sure we're little tighter and we're not giving up those chances."






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