Despite winning last year's MLS championship, Real Salt Lake still had something to prove this year.
Most believed the title was a fluke, and the only way to dispel that notion was to back it up with more success.
Heading into the MLS playoffs, RSL captain Kyle Beckerman believes there's nothing left to prove. The regular season took care of that.
"We're done with that. Some guys might not be on the team but I am. I look at our team, we're a good team and that's it. We're a good team and we should win games like we did this year, and we should be one of the favorites in the playoffs," said Beckerman.
Nat Borchers, however, isn't quite as convinced that there aren't still Real Salt Lake naysayers out there.
"I'm on the Internet on the blogs all day long, and I still read a lot of pundits counting us out for the playoffs. That's good for us. I don't think we're expected to win, but we in this group believe we can get back to MLS Cup," he said.
RSL finished with a franchise-record 56 points in the regular season, just three behind Los Angeles in the race for the Supporter's Shield. Finishing with the second-best record in MLS and advancing out of CONCACAF Champions League group play at the same time would seem to validate Beckerman's thoughts.
Nothing would validate it further than another MLS title. That quest begins this Saturday at FC Dallas in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
"We've had some really good success this year; we're proud of what we've done, but now it's a new season. The ultimate goal is still attainable, and that's what we're reaching for," said Chris Wingert.
JOHNSON HOBBLED: Midway through Tuesday's training session, RSL midfielder Will Johnson hobbled off the field and began clutching his left hamstring.
He talked with the team trainer and sat out the rest of practice.
"He tweaked his hamstring and he'll be day-to-day for whether he'll be available for this weekend," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
If he can't go, both Andy Williams and Ned Grabavoy figure to start in the midfield, but Johnson's relentless work rate would be greatly missed.
WEATHER MOVES INSIDE: The threat of snow Tuesday forced Real Salt Lake to practice on the turf in the Spence Eccles Fieldhouse at the University of Utah. As a result, Jamison Olave, Alvaro Saborio and Paulo Jr. didn't train for precautionary reasons because of the turf.
Overall, it was a productive practice nonetheless.
"It's never the same when you train inside, but obviously we have to deal with the weather with the conditions being what they are, and I think the guys still looked pretty sharp today," said Borchers.
Real Salt Lake hopes to train at Xango Field in Lehi today and Thursday, but those plans are always tentative this time of year.
"At the beginning of every season and the end of every season, we literally don't know where we're going to be from one day to the next because of the weather," said Kreis.
TOUGH DECISIONS: You could tell it was playoff time during RSL's practice Tuesday.
With RSL's busy schedule the past few months everybody eventually got an opportunity to play, but that's no longer the case.
"It's a funny thing this time of year, you can see how badly every player wants it. They all want to be involved in these games, they all want to be out there from the start," said Kreis. "There's no way to placate it anymore as the coaching staff to say to a guy 'Well, you're not in this game but you'll be in the next one because we've got one three days later.' There's no more of that. The competition is fierce, and it started today."
Real Salt Lake (15-4-11) at FC Dallas (12-4-14)
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas
TV: FOX Soccer Radio: 99.1 FM
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