Associated Press
Real Salt Lake forward Jefferson Savarino celebrates a goal against the Colorado Rapids during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

HERRIMAN — For the first time all season, Real Salt Lake’s goal differential has a plus sign in front of it.

After hovering around the minus-8 range most of the season, back-to-back six-goal outbursts against Colorado and the L.A. Galaxy has flipped that negative goal differential into a positive. RSL has scored 48 goals this season and conceded 46.

In the grand scheme of things, a positive goal differential isn’t that important. Sure it could come into play as the second tiebreaker for playoff seeding after wins but, for the most part, it’s all about pride. RSL hasn’t finished a season with a positive goal differential since 2014.

Real Salt Lake’s recent run — 4-1-1 record the past six games — suggests that a goal differential stat is a trivial concern this season. RSL has maintained its playoff position over the past month when many around the league figured it was destined to fall out of the picture by now.

With six games remaining to officially lock down a playoff position, coach Mike Petke said he’s excited to see how the next month and a half plays out beginning this Saturday night (7:30 p.m., KMYU) at Rio Tinto Stadium against Minnesota United.

“We’ve very grounded right now. We understand who we are, we understand our capabilities. Practice over the last month has been so much more intense and so much more specific, from the players getting on each other and making sure we’re connecting passes and making the right movements,” said Petke.

That success on the training ground has carried over to the weekend.

“I wouldn’t call us MLS Cup contenders right now … we’re on the right path. I like where we’re at at the moment and I’m anxious to see what the next six games hold for us,” said Petke.

Collecting maximum points at home in its final three home games against Minnesota, New England and Portland is an absolute must for RSL if it hopes to maintain a playoff position in the tightly-packed Western Conference.

Kyle Beckerman said it’s no secret what needs to be done.

“We’ve just got to go earn it, we’re a gritty group of young bucks and we’ve got to go earn it. We’ve done a lot of good stuff so far and now it’s about putting all of that together and getting something out of the season,” said Beckerman.

Minnesota marches into Rio Tinto Stadium sitting in ninth place in the West with a minus-15 overall goal differential and a dismal 1-12-1 road record.

Comment on this story

RSL made history its last two times out by becoming the first MLS team to score six goals in consecutive games. Can it make it three straight against Minnesota’s dreadful defense?

After losing at Minnesota 3-2 back on July 14, Beckerman would be happy with any kind of victory.

“We feel like we’re in a better place than we were last time, being at home should give us an extra boost of confidence,” said Beckerman.

Adding to the potential lopsided affair is the fact that RSL hasn’t played in two weeks while Minnesota played at D.C. United on Wednesday and lost 2-1. Its record is 0-5-1 over the past six matches.