Sandy • In keeping with how the second half of Real Salt Lake's season has played out, how fitting was its conclusion Saturday night?
RSL was up late and had the third seed in the MLS Western Conference all but tucked away when Portland delivered a stunner of a tying goal to walk out of Rio Tinto Stadium with a 1-1 decision and the knowledge that, at least for a moment, it had played spoiler.
Real Salt Lake was reduced to scoreboard watching, waiting to see if San Jose could defeat FC Dallas and hand RSL the third seed.
"I am now," RSL coach Jason Kreis answered when asked if he was a San Jose fan.
Eventually, the Earthquakes did RSL (15-11-8) a favor by scoring often and early en route to a 4-2 home victory, sending Dallas to Wednesday's wild card game. Real will now prepare for a home game with Seattle on Saturday.
"Obviously, we're very, very disappointed with the result," Kreis said. "I thought we had done so many good things up until that point. It's that time of year when it comes down to split-second decisions. A little lapse of focus there at the end, and we don't get the result we wanted."
Good results have been difficult to come by of late. RSL finishes the final six games of the 2011 season with four straight losses followed by two ties, including last week at Colorado.
To hear Kreis speak, however, the pieces are in place for a successful playoff run.
"There were a ton of positive things to draw from last week at Colorado," Kreis said. "There are some positive things to draw out of this game. Now, if we can put the whole package together we're going to be in a good place."
The reaction inside the RSL locker room differed from player to player. While all felt good about the effort and energy put forth against the Timbers (11-14-8), there was caution, too.
"It was our game," RSL forward Fabian Espindola said. "One ball, one mistake and we lose two points, which is important. That can't happen.
"You fail like that in the playoffs, you do that and you're out."
The mistake was not only the score by Portland's Futty Danso in the 90th minute, but the pass by Brian Umony that sliced open the RSL defense.
One moment wasted nearly all the good that RSL had done before, including a brilliant Alvaro Saborio goal right before halftime that gave Real a 1-0 lead.
The score punctuated a first half that saw an aggressive RSL push the Timbers on their heels. Espindola lofted a ball over the Portland defense to Saborio, who beat Danso and keeper Troy Perkins with a wedge-like shot into the goal.
"We should have won the game," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "If that happens in the playoffs, it could cost us.
"We dominated the game."
Seattle at RSL
P Saturday, 6 p.m.