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Even before the Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy had finished playing to a 1-1 draw on the West Coast, Javier Morales stood in front of his locker, exasperated after a second straight loss and knowing his team's chances at winning a trophy were slipping away.
"It's a little bit hard," Morales said of Real Salt Lake's hopes at claiming the Supporters' Shield, Major League Soccer's prize for the top team in the regular season. "We have to be realistic. Right now it's going to be hard. Seattle has more points than us in fewer games than us. Now we have to focus and improve our soccer and our team. If we want to be in the MLS Cup, we have a lot of work."
An hour and a half after RSL dropped a 2-1 result to the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle's draw gave the Sounders a two-point edge over Salt Lake, with two games in hand. The draw also moved the Galaxy into a position to overtake RSL with a win next week.
The New York Red Bulls' 1-0 win over Dallas on Sunday, meanwhile, put them three points clear of Salt Lake. Those results could affect how RSL coach Jason Kreis prepares his lineups and his players in the season's final weeks.
"I probably still won't be ready to throw in the towel on the Supporters' Shield," Kreis said Saturday night, with the Sounders, Galaxy and Red Bulls results still unknown. "But perhaps I will. Perhaps we'll put a huge focus on the Open Cup, and a focus on just getting into the playoffs and a huge focus on just trying to get our swagger back."
With so many teams still vying for the Shield, RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said his team needs to turn its focus inward following a loss and a performance he summarized by saying "nothing was good."
"You see it every week, teams are going up three spots and then down three spots," he said. "People that aren't in the playoffs are in the playoffs the next week. There are literally 8-10 teams playing for that. I think we just need to focus on getting better and playing better. We'll worry about [the Supporters' Shield] on the last game of the season if it's there. But right now we just need to focus on our form; we need to get into better form."
Salt Lake at Vancouver
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • CW30, Univision