Even before they actually reached the playoffs, Real Salt Lake was not willing to accept that simply making it there would be the end of its accomplishments.
Now, the team is insistent about it.
"Now that we're in there, we feel - in our hearts - we can go all the way," coach Jason Kreis said at a media luncheon Tuesday. "And that's what we plan to do."
RSL opens its first Major League Soccer playoffs against former expansion rival Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, when it could all but clinch advancement into the conference semifinals with a dominating performance. The return leg of the home-and-home series is Nov. 8 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"We all believe that something special can happen," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
It wouldn't be unprecedented.
Though the best teams from the regular season usually win in the playoffs, the league has had experience with a mediocre team catching fire enough to hoist the MLS Cup. Just three years ago, while RSL was limping away from its disastrous inaugural year, the Los Angeles Galaxy were becoming the first and only team without a winning record to claim the championship trophy.
"Anything can happen," striker Clint Mathis said.
The Galaxy was just 13-13-6 in the regular season, tying for third in the MLS Western Conference but earning only the fourth seed for the playoffs because of a negative goal differential.
RSL enters the current playoffs having gone 10-10-10 in the regular season, and also finishing third in the MLS Western Conference.
And just like the Galaxy did, RSL is starting its title chase at home - generally perceived as a disadvantage, but not necessarily. Since the series is decided by goal differential, in the absence of a sweep, a team that channels emotion and energy into a landslide home victory can give itself a tremendous cushion going into the road game.
"We don't just roll over now," general manager Garth Lagerwey said.
Of course, while the Galaxy began their title run with a 3-1 home victory over top-seeded San Jose, RSL has beaten Chivas only three times in 14 meetings - and just once by more than one goal. In the most recent meeting, RSL lost a 1-0 shocker at home when defender Nat Borchers and goalkeeper Nick Rimando collided and allowed Chivas' Alecko Eskandarian an easy score. Still, the RSL players insist they're poised for a deep playoff run.
Tickets on sale
Chivas at RSL
RSL vs. Chivas
Tickets for Saturday's game are on sale at www.RioTintoStadium.com or by calling (801) 924-8585. Tickets by phone will be available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Individual tickets to the home playoff match begin at $20 per seat, while groups of 20 or more can purchase tickets at various discounted rates. Call, click or visit Rio Tinto Stadium's East Side box office or the team's Trolley Corners office (515 South 700 East) for tickets or more information.
Saturday, 4 p.m.,
Fox Soccer Channel
May 18, 2005 W - RSL 2, Chivas 0
August 6, 2005 W - RSL 2, Chivas 1
July 4, 2006 T - RSL 0, Chivas 0
July 26, 2006 T - RSL 3, Chivas 3
Oct. 6, 2007 L - Chivas 3, RSL 2
Sept. 20, 2008 L - Chivas 1, RSL 0
Total: Tied, 2-2-2
May 7, 2005 L - Chivas 1, RSL 0
July 9, 2005 L - Chivas 5, RSL 1
April 2, 2006 L - Chivas 3, RSL 0
Oct. 15, 2006 T - RSL 1, Chivas 1
April 21, 2007 L - Chivas 4, RSL 0
August 26, 2007 L - Chivas 1, RSL 0
April 5, 2008 L - Chivas 3, RSL 1
June 14, 2008 W - RSL 1, Chivas 0
Total: RSL trails, 1-6-1