Mike Terry, Deseret News
RSL's Tony Beltran heads the ball toward teammate Fabian Espindola.

SANDY — Upon further review, Real Salt Lake's disappointing 3-1 road loss to New England last Sunday — disappointing in the hapless manor in which RSL competed as much as anything else — didn't look quite as bad to coach Jason Kreis as it initially did.

"When I rewatched the game, I think I took a little bit of a (slightly) less harsh tone," said Kreis.

But, as he'll be the first to tell to you, grit, determination and passion — qualities that embodied Kreis' career as a player — were unmistakably missing from RSL's performance in that contest.

To stand any chance of returning to the MLS playoffs, RSL's players better start displaying those characteristics in a hurry, starting tonight at 7 inside Rio Tinto Stadium in a match against Chivas USA that Kreis labeled "a hugely important game."

According to Kreis, his guys must show that they're willing to battle tonight to stand a chance of getting the winning result they badly need.

"Without that, I don't think there is anything else," he said. "I think we've proved to ourselves and to everybody that the way we get results in this league over two years — not just this year, but over two years — is that we work harder than the other team. When we don't, we don't get results."

RSL didn't work harder than the opposition against New England and subsequently didn't get a result, and it'll clearly have to have ramp things up a bunch of notches tonight to be able to get three points and bolster the club's sagging playoff hopes.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, RSL sits three points adrift of the final playoff spot in MLS. However, if RSL GM Garth Lagerwey's math is to be believed — Lagerwey stated a few weeks ago that he believed RSL will have to finish with 43 points to make the playoffs — Salt Lake must get 16 points from those final eight games.

Viewed it that context, anything less than a win at home will be a major disappointment, something Kries pointed out has been the case for his club all year.

Tonight, Kreis suggested, he's hoping his guys will respond to the disappointment of last weekend and put themselves in a position to get three points.

"I'm hoping for our guys to come out with some emotion," said Kreis. "I want some guys to come out and show that they really want this and that they really believe that we can do this."

For his part, fullback Chris Wingert says he and his teammates are determined and focused to do what they need to get three points tonight.

"We keep putting ourselves in tough positions, but we gotta dig our way out of it and we feel like we can do that," said Wingert. "We're still within three points of the last playoff spot, and we just gotta concentrate on getting three points (tonight). We can't worry about Saturday or this past weekend and what happened."

RSL striker Robbie Findley echoed those sentiments and suggested RSL mustn't panic, despite being in the precarious situation it finds itself in.

"That's the main thing that could either make or break it for us," said Findley. "We just gotta not panic and make sure we play our game — don't send a bunch of numbers forward or something — just keep doing the same things that we've been doing."

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com