RSL faces do-or-die playoff run

By By Tony Pizza and By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

Real Salt Lake may have three games left, but it is down to its last strike. If the team can’t go on a three-game winning streak to close out the season, it can start making travel arrangements, tee times, and shoring-up any other offseason plans because the team won’t make the playoffs this season.Even if RSL is able to win all three of its final games, it may not be enough to get the team into the playoffs for the first time. With RSL behind Colorado by three points, all Colorado needs to do is win one game and have RSL drop a match to clinch a playoff spot.RSL does not absolutely need to catch Colorado in the standings to secure a playoff spot. If RSL can win out, and if Houston does not collect more than three points in its three remaining matches, RSL would sneak into the playoffs. Or, if RSL can win out and Chivas goes winless in its final three games, RSL could also slip into the playoffs.Basically, every game is a playoff game for RSL, and it will need to leave it all on the field if it hopes to run the table and benefit in case other teams are not able to secure the playoff spots they currently possess.RSL’s first test will take place in the Midwest this Saturday when RSL travels to Kansas City to take on the Wizards. It may not be totally out of the question for RSL fans and players to start praying for the Wizards to play like Kansas City’s other two professional teams for at least one night. The Kansas City Chiefs are currently 0-2 to start the NFL season, and the Kansas City Royals had their playoff hopes dissolve before the second month of the regular season was over.RSL will hope to leave Arrowhead Stadium with a win over the city’s soccer team to keep its playoff hopes alive. Kansas City, on the other hand, will not likely just roll over and die for RSL.The Wizards are locked in their own playoff battle with the New York Red Bulls for the last playoff spot in the East. Kansas City can solidify the fourth and final spot with a win against RSL. This makes for a potentially very exciting soccer game overflowing with playoff implications.RSL will finally have its normal starting 11 back on the field together for the first time in two games. Jeff Cunningham missed the first game against Dallas after collecting too many yellow cards over the course of the season. Carey Talley also missed half of that match after collecting a red card toward the end of the first half. Talley was then forced to serve a mandatory suspension the subsequent match for his previous red card.”Having Carey back in our lineup will be a big lift; we missed his intensity and leadership last week at Dallas,” RSL head coach John Ellinger said.RSL can be expected to come out with the same type of intensity that it has been playing with since the All-Star break. During that stretch, RSL has gone 5-2-2 and will need the same kind of play it used to beat some other good MLS teams if it wants to secure a win against Kansas City.”I am confident that our group will respond; we all know how important this game is for our playoff chances,” Ellinger said.Although Kansas City has struggled at times this season, considering the Wizards were one of the teams that figured to be fighting for the top spot in the East, the team still remains in the playoff hunt, even though it has gone a mediocre 3-3-4 since the All-Star Break.Kansas City has a slew of dangerous players on the team, including leading goal-scorer Scott Sealy and defender Jimmy Conrad.”People tend to forget how talented Kansas City is. I know they have not had the type of season that most people expected out of them, but they have been hit with injuries and lost a lot of players to World Cup duty,” Ellinger said. “When you look at their roster, there are a lot of names that jump out at you. Josh Wolff and Eddie Johnson are two of the more talented forwards in the country.”Kansas City will have to go without Nick Garcia, one of the strongest defenders in the league, but with the depth Kansas City has on its back line, Garcia isn’t a devastating loss.”They need this game almost as much as we do, so I anticipate a hard-fought match with playoff-like intensity,” Ellinger said.If RSL can pull out a win and receive a gift from two Eastern conference teams, RSL will be right back in the playoff hunt. If New England and DC United can hand Colorado and Houston an East Coast loss apiece, it would square RSL up with Colorado in total points, and it would leave RSL just two points behind Houston. This would set up a monumental match in Salt Lake City the next weekend when Houston travels to Rice-Eccles Stadium for RSL’s last guaranteed home match.