SANDY — As dramatic as Real Salt Lake's comeback against Colorado was last weekend, the mood in the locker room at Dick's Sporting Goods Park was relatively subdued.
Any other time of year and the players would've been ecstatic about scoring twice in stoppage time to salvage a road draw. But not in the final game of the regular season, especially when many are picking RSL to claim a second straight MLS Cup.
"It was a real nice thing that happened at Colorado that we were thoroughly outplayed," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It sent a pretty strong message to our players, and I think that's all it will take to wake them up."
In many respects, the tie felt like a loss, and RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said practices are almost always better the week after a loss.
That appears to be the case again as Real Salt Lake prepares for its Western Conference semifinal series with FC Dallas.
"The training sessions the past few days have been fantastic. We all know that once the playoffs start, the level of intensity, the level of focus automatically goes up," said Kreis.
That focus and intensity just wasn't there in the finale at Colorado. The performance was the worst of the season, according to many players, and on both sides of the ball.
With a veteran team that has been through a lot this year, Kreis didn't harp on their performance afterward.
"We needed to take accountability and responsibility for the performance and then move on," said Kreis.
The team appears to be moving forward with quality training sessions, but some wonder if the poor performance will rattle Real Salt Lake in Game 1 against FC Dallas. Robbie Russell isn't concerned.
"It's one game. It's not five games. Everyone has a bad game. It's a mark of a good team and even a good player that they come back and realize they have to put in a little extra something," said Russell.
If any team is going to be rattled, it's Dallas. After its 19-game unbeaten was snapped at Rio Tinto Stadium two weeks ago, Dallas suddenly finds itself on a two-game losing streak heading into the playoffs following losses to Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles — the two best teams in MLS.
The defending MLS Cup champs should be relaxed heading into the playoffs. Even though RSL was lucky to get a draw in Colorado, the result extended the club's franchise-record unbeaten streak to 14 straight.
Its last loss was a 2-0 setback at FC Dallas on July 14. Its combined record in MLS games and CONCACAF Champions League games since is 10-1-9. It's hard to imagine 89 minutes of poor soccer undoing three months of hard work.
RSL at FC Dallas
Saturday, 3 p.m.
TV: Fox Soccer
Radio: 570 AM, 1600 AM