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Sandy • Tony Beltran uncorked an off-balance, left-footed cross near the east sideline at Rio Tinto Stadium six seconds beyond the allotted four minutes of stoppage time.
It sailed over the group in the box anticipating its fall. Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake's leading scorer and assist man in 2016, quickly freed himself of the two center backs tracking him.
Six yards from goal, unmarked, the precise flick of his head sent the ball into the near post, beyond the outstretched arms of Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia. That would've been the winner. That would've sent a pent-up Rio Tinto Stadium into the sort of elation its so desperately sought the last two months.
That would've booked this scuffling RSL group a spot in the MLS postseason.
But Plata met the ball and placed his wide-open header just wide of goal in the final play of Sunday afternoon's 0-0 draw. When the final whistle blew, Plata just stayed down the pitch, in a full sprawl, confounded that yet another fantastic scoring opportunity managed to go wayward.
"Let's be honest," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said, "you can't go three, four games without scoring and exude confidence. It's a tricky thing, right?"
Indeed. RSL (12-11-10, 46 points) has now scored a grand total of one goal in its last five. The winless streak stretched a bit further Sunday to six games. The scoreless draw against Sporting KC also meant that in its last four regular-season home games, RSL earned just three points, going 0-1-3. The team that in late spring and early summer was scoring goals in bunches is mired in a power outage of the most untimely kind.
"Think we just need that short-term memory loss right now," said RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland.
As conference matches kicked off simultaneously across MLS on Sunday, RSL knew a win booked a playoff berth. Even a draw plus a Portland draw would have gotten RSL in. But the reigning MLS Cup champs took care of their business at home, beating the Colorado Rapids 1-0.
FC Dallas took care of the Seattle Sounders in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Frisco, Texas, vaulting RSL one point clear of Seattle for the fourth spot entering the regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field next Sunday.
"Yeah, that helped," captain Kyle Beckerman said, "but you'd like to just take care of your own business, especially with a home game."
Plata had nearly an identical chance to bury the worries of a goal drought in the 79th minute, but his point-blank header at the near post didn't go wide of goal it went right at Melia.
RSL couldn't capitalize on a great combination play between Plata, Burrito Martinez and Yura Movsisyan in the 56th minute when a wide-open Movsisyan received a ball from Martinez seven yards from goal. Movsisyan couldn't locate the ball in time, but played it off to Plata, whose one-time shot was deflected out.
"I have full confidence in these guys," Cassar said. "I know what they're capable of. ... We just have to have that killer mentality."
R RSL goes winless in its last four regular-season home games at Rio Tinto Stadium.
• Joao Plata misses the last chance of the game in the 95th minute.
• RSL, now in fourth place in the West, heads to Seattle next Sunday for the 2016 regular-season finale.