A month ago, Real Salt Lake was just trying to win a match. Now, on a four-game winning streak, they are rising in the Western Conference standings and hoping to make another move.
Before going on their current streak, they had won just one of their five matches. But after last Saturday's 1-0 result over Sporting Kansas City at home, and headed on a two-game East Coast trip, RSL is in third place in the Western standings and just three points behind second-place Seattle.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis said his team is only focused on their next game.
"You have to look at the very next game and know that when we perform well and work together, we'll get good results," he said. "Then we'll move up the standings."
The opponent in front of them is the New York Red Bulls (7-6-15, 36 points), who sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. RSL (14-7-6, 48 points) will be without captain Kyle Beckerman — who will be on a one-game suspension due to his sixth yellow card — for the game, which is set for 6 p.m. today at Red Bull Arena.
Other RSL absences will be that of Tony Beltran, who is out two to four weeks with a groin injury, and Chris Wingert, who is close to returning from a broken wrist.
Tonight's and Saturday's match against DC United is part of a season-ending stretch in which RSL will play five-of-seven games on the road. The schedule sees them play three games in the next seven days, but defender Nat Borchers says that's a good thing.
"I always say that I feel more fit the more games I play," he said. "It's good to know that when we bring our best effort, and the more we get in the flow and in a rhythm, then we start to get good results."
Another positive aspect is that Javier Morales, who has been out with a broken ankle since May, made the trip with the team. Morales most likely won't get on the field until October. So even if his presence is on the trip is useful for team morale, Morales says it's a good thing.
"My wife told me, 'go and support the guys,' " he said. "The hardest part for me has been to be at home watching them play."
RSL clinches playoff berth if:
RSL defeat host New York today, AND Houston tie or lose OR Colorado lose.
OR RSL defeat host D.C. United on Saturday AND Houston tie or lose AND Colorado lose.
OR RSL fail to win both games AND Portland lose twice this week AND Houston lose