Tonight's 8 p.m. Major League Soccer showdown at San Jose isn't a must-win game for Real Salt Lake, but coach Jason Kreis and Co. all understand the math.
Because it unexpectedly dropped three points at home to Chivas last weekend, RSL probably must pick up at least three points from its remaining three road games on top of winning twice inside its brand-new stadium next month.
Do that, and Real stands a good chance of making the MLS playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Don't do that, and things get dicey in a hurry.
"We expect to win (at home), and I think that's a good sign of where our club is, so to lose those points last weekend was very disappointing," said Kreis.
"What it means now is that we're going to have to try and pick up three somewhere on the road, either at San Jose, at New England or at Colorado. My feeling on that is if we can't win one of those three games, we don't deserve to make the playoffs anyway."
Considering RSL has won just once on the road all season, it won't be an easy task, but the quest to double that away win total begins tonight inside Buck Shaw Stadium against San Jose.
Despite the obvious added pressure that RSL must feel heading down the stretch, captain Kyle Beckerman said Real will approach tonight's contest like it has throughout the season.
"We'll go into it the same way go and just play hard and be a tough team to beat," he said.
Certainly, the team that Salt Lake faces tonight will possess those characteristics.
Since looking every bit like the expansion team it was earlier this season, San Jose has surprisingly improved considerably to vault itself into playoff contention. The Earthquake still sits in last place in the Western Conference but is on a nine-game unbeaten streak that has pulled the squad to within two points of RSL and four points of second-place Chivas.
"When they came here earlier in the season, I thought they were really bad," admitted Beckerman. "But obviously, they're not (now). They're winning a lot of games and not giving up much."
Kreis credited San Jose coach Frank Yallop and GM John Doyle for bringing in what he labeled "four great players" over the summer.
"Everybody talks about the one, Darren Huckerby, but there's three other players in Arturo Alvarez, Scott Sealy and Francisco Lima that are fantastic players as well," said Kreis.
To be successful against those guys, Kreis suggested, it's going to take an outstanding effort at both ends of the field and especially defensively, considering the hapless manner in which RSL conceded its goal to Chivas last Saturday.
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