SANDY — Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas have been on a playoff collision course for about a month, but now it's official.
RSL's hope of winning the MLS Supporter's Shield and securing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference were extinguished Sunday night when the L.A. Galaxy beat visiting FC Dallas 2-1. The Galaxy clinched the Shield with 59 points with RSL finishing second with 56 points.
"Any other year I think we would've ended up first with 56 points," said RSL defender Nat Borchers.
RSL will meet No. 3 seed FC Dallas in the two-game first-round playoff series beginning this Saturday.
Game 1 will be played at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, next Saturday at 3 p.m. (MDT). The return leg will be Saturday, Nov. 6 at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel.
"Now it doesn't matter what the seeding is. We're going to have to play good teams to get to MLS Cup again," said Borchers. "We've put ourselves in a great position in the playoffs to do well."
The L.A. Galaxy enjoyed a big cushion in the race for the Supporter's Shield at the midway point of the season, but RSL fought back valiantly to give itself a shot on the final weekend of the season. Realistically though, a congested schedule in the CONCACAF Champions League made winning the Supporter's Shield unrealistic.
That's fine with Borchers. Advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals was a fair trade off to finishing second in the race for the Shield.
Salt Lake and Dallas split their season series, with each team winning at home 2-0. Their meeting two weeks ago at Rio Tinto Stadium was arguably the most anticipated match of the entire regular season. FC Dallas went into that match with a 19-game overall unbeaten streak while RSL was in the midst of a 25-game home unbeaten streak.
It was a tightly-contested match that RSL eventually won with a pair of goals in the second half.
That loss and another at Los Angeles to close out the season, and suddenly FC Dallas doesn't seem quite so invincible heading into the playoffs.
"It's going to be very tough to play against them. They're a very fast team. Even watching them (Sunday night) it's a good reminder of how quick they are on the counter attack," said Borchers.
The key to the series will be RSL's ability to get a result on the road. Even though it closed the season on a seven-game road unbeaten streak, it has lost all eight games in Big D in franchise history.
"We're definitely cognizant of the fact we haven't got a result down there, but quite frankly we're due," said Borchers. "We need to make sure we go down there with the right mentality. It's a road game so we're going to have to be super switched on with our defensive pressure."
MLS playoff schedule
L.A. Galaxy vs.
Game 1 at Seattle, Oct. 31, 6 p.m.
Game 2 at L.A., Nov. 7, 9 p.m.
Real Salt Lake vs.
Game 1 at Dallas, Oct. 30, 3 p.m.
Game 2 at Salt Lake, Nov. 6, 8 p.m.
Columbus Crew vs.
Game 1 at Colorado, Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
Game 2 at Columbus, Nov. 6, 2 p.m.
San Jose Earthquakes
vs. N.Y. Red Bulls
Game 1 at San Jose, Oct. 30, 8 p.m.
Game 2 at New York, Nov. 4, 6 p.m.