This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sandy • A week ago, Real Salt Lake sat three points out of a Major League Soccer playoff spot with its final two regular-season home matches in the crosshairs. RSL wasn't exactly in control of its destiny, but was preparing for a game against the team it was chasing in the Western Conference standings not to mention another four days later.
Fast-forward, and RSL's playoffs hopes have since crumbled to the ground after back-to-back home losses in which the club couldn't manage a goal. There will be a time to reflect on what went wrong, and what can be done to fix it . The early offseason is on the doorstep.
Just not yet.
For RSL to lessen the sting of what has been a failed season, Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League Group G finale can provide a glimmer of hope for 2016. A win or draw against Guatemalan club Municipal at Rio Tinto Stadium gets RSL through to the Champions League quarterfinal round next February.
A loss bounces RSL from the tournament, which would only add to the lengthening list of shortcomings this season.
"Obviously with the game so close [to last week], we haven't been able to train to get it out of our system," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "We're out of the playoffs. It's difficult, it really is. It's up to me to motivate them, to get a response. It's up to the players to get a response. At the end of the day, it's one game. We need this one game to advance."
In Champions League, it never is. And against a Municipal group expected to slow the game down by any means necessary, this group stage final could be an adventure in its own right.
"It's just the way this region of soccer is," captain Kyle Beckerman said. "Sometimes it's not very fun and it's ugly."
Whatever it ends up being, it will be a step away from the torture of last week. Municipal has the personnel to pose issues, but needs a win to advance. If RSL can sustain possession and make Municipal pay for pushing numbers forward, it could be a tactical approach that plays into RSL's hands.
"It's the last chance for them," midfielder Javier Morales said.
Should RSL advance, it'd make Champions League history as the first time four MLS clubs advanced to the quarterfinal round.
The L.A. Galaxy, D.C. United and Sounders have all punched their tickets.
"We've just got to find a way to get a result [and] get us into the knockout rounds, so we can start off next year with something really important to play for," Beckerman said. "It's always good for the fans and it's a fun tournament to be in. We'll just give it everything we got, and hopefully it'll be enough."
Municipal at Real Salt Lake
O CONCACAF Champions League
At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff • Tuesday, 8 p.m.
TV • FOX Sports 2. Radio • 700 AM
Records in Group G play • RSL 2-0-1, Municipal 1-1-1
About RSL • A win or draw gets RSL through to the Champions League knockout round for the first time since 2010-11. … Forward Joao Plata (left adductor strain) is questionable for the match after leaving last Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Portland in the 48th minute.
About Municipal • Former MLS MVP Carlos Ruiz is expected to play against RSL Tuesday night. … The 36-year-old is a former teammate of Jeff Cassar, Craig Waibel and Tyrone Marshall.