SANDY — Real Salt Lake is playoff bound despite some long odds.
It seemed like an impossibility with so many scenarios needing to play out Saturday night, but amazingly everything did. RSL beat rival Colorado 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium and got the help it needed from around the league.
New York beat Toronto FC 5-0, Kansas City tied D.C. United 2-2 and Seattle beat FC Dallas 2-1. The combination of the three was good enough for RSL to secure its second straight playoff berth.
"We believed if we win this game it's going to work for us, and that's exactly what happened," said Kyle Beckerman. "It's dancing time. New season. It's going to be tough, but we've got a home game next week we can focus on."
The only drama remaining involves its playoff seed. Real Salt Lake will enter the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and face Chicago in the first round unless New England beats Columbus today. If New England wins, RSL goes into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and faces the defending champion Crew in the first round.
Regardless of its opponent, RSL will host the first of the two-game playoff series next week, a match likely to be played Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. The second game will be on the road Nov. 7.
For the unlikely chain of events to unfold, RSL first needed to take care of business against Colorado. It did in convincing fashion.
"I think that has to go down as one of the best RSL games in the history of the franchise," said Kreis. "The performance was second to none tonight. It was so rewarding to see the players play that way when all the chips were on the table. Last year in those scenarios, that's when our team played the worst."
Unlike last week when it waited until the 80th minute to score against New York in a must-win situation, the club got on the board early.
Robbie Findley put RSL ahead 1-0 just 16 minutes into the match as he headed in a cheeky little cross from Fabian Espindola. Seventeen minutes later, Findley scored again. This time he ran onto an Andy Williams long ball, delicately chipped it over Colorado charging keeper Preston Burpo and buried it.
Despite the 2-0 lead, it was by no means a dominant opening half hour.
RSL keeper Nick Rimando was forced to make a diving save in the 25th minute on a shot from Julien Baudet, with Conor Casey spraying the close-range rebounded shot well over the bar. Three minutes later, Omar Cummings had another dangerous shot deflected over the crossbar.
"To get that one early was great, I think the players did take a deep breath and probably a little too deep a breath because I thought our energy level went down after that a little bit for a while," said Kreis.
Second-half substitute Yura Movsisyan tacked on a goal in the 85th minute on a night when RSL also claimed the Rocky Mountain Cup for the third straight year.
With Salt Lake's victory locked up early, the drama shifted to Kansas City and Seattle. RSL couldn't afford to have both D.C. United win in K.C. and FC Dallas win in Seattle otherwise its playoff hopes were officially dashed.
D.C. led at Kansas City heading into stoppage time, but the Wizards equalized with a late penalty kick and the match went final with RSL on the field in the 64th minute of its own match.53 comments on this story
Afterward, some players and fans waited around the stadium to watch Seattle rally from a halftime deficit to beat FC Dallas and officially punch RSL's ticket into the playoffs.
Kreis likes his team's chances in the playoffs.
"I feel really good about my team. Better than last year. The reason is because this year in the most highest pressure situations is when our team, for me, has played the best," said Kreis. "Last year in those most highest pressure situations I thought we were nervous."