Kyle Beckerman saw his team fighting for a playoff spot.
What he didn’t envision was Real Salt Lake ending the regular season atop — perhaps temporarily — the Western Conference and the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
A closer look
Western Conference, entering Friday:
1. RSL » 56 points
2. Portland » 54
3. L.A. Galaxy » 52
4. Seattle Sounders » 51
5. Colorado Rapids » 51
RSL’s regular-season record against West playoff teams:
vs. Portland » 1-0-2
vs. L.A. » 1-2-0
vs. Seattle » 2-1-0
vs. Colorado » 0-1-2
"To be here," the RSL captain said, "I guess you don’t really see that. All the hard work that everybody had been putting in, guys are buying into what we’ve got going on."
Following RSL’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the club finished with 56 points — second-most in franchise history after earning 57 in 2012 — and guaranteed a top-two seed in the West playoff picture.
Should the Portland Timbers lose or draw against Chivas on Saturday in Carson, Calif., RSL would win the West and earn the top seed in a stacked conference.
Even if Portland tops the Goats, RSL is guaranteed the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and will host the second leg of a home-and-away on either Nov. 6 or 7 after being on the road either Nov. 2 or 3 to start the Western Conference semifinals.
"I can’t sit here and say that I thought we’d be second or possibly first, but I thought that we’d be in the playoffs," midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "That was our realistic goal, not just for me, but for the team, and I really felt that before the season."
RSL can match up with any of four Western Conference clubs after the final whistle is blown Sunday night in Seattle when the Sounders take on the L.A. Galaxy at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle, L.A., Portland and Colorado will be jockeying for seeds this weekend, while RSL sits back and awaits its opponent.
"I think that all of them have given us a fair amount of trouble this year, and I think that all of them have extremely dangerous players," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "I think that all of them are very, very well-coached and can be difficult to break down. For me, it doesn’t matter. Bring ’em because we’ve got to beat them all, right? To be champions, you’ve got to beat the best, so bring it on."
But will he be glued to the TV?
"Every minute of every game," Kreis said.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.