Failure was no longer an option.
On the heels of Real Salt Lake's 2-1 aggregate series win over the L.A. Galaxy in the Western Conference semifinals Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL put to bed the bad memories of must-win matches at home gone awry.
"We've thought about all the times when we failed at home," said defender Nat Borchers, "and it's worn on us."
Playing arguably its most complete match of the season, RSL dominated for 120 minutes in the 2-0 victory, usurping the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy.
"For me, honest to God, every time Real Salt Lake wants to win the game more than their opponent, we win the game," said RSL coach Jason Kreis, "and tonight we wanted it more than the L.A. Galaxy."
RSL advances to its fourth conference final in six seasons and draws the No. 1-seeded Portland Timbers in the Western Conference final. The two sides clash for the first of the two-leg series Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy at 7 p.m.
This will be the fifth time since August the two Western Conference franchises face off. In all competitions this season, RSL is 2-0-2 against the Timbers, the only team qualified in the West postseason picture that failed to beat RSL.
Most recently, RSL and Portland tied 0-0 at JELD-WEN Field on Oct. 19.
So are the Timbers on track for a budding rivalry with RSL?
"I think you've got the two most consistent teams throughout the 2013 season," said Portland captain and former RSL midfielder Will Johnson. "I wouldn't say it's a rivalry, just because it's so much more than that it's the opportunity to get the MLS Cup."
As the No. 1 seed out of the West, the Timbers are coming off a series against Seattle in which they asserted themselves offensively against the star-laden Sounders. Portland scored five goals in the two-leg Western Conference semifinal series en route to a 5-3 aggregate victory over Seattle.
"They're a great team, they've shown really well this year, so it will be another two games that we're going to have to give another great effort like we did tonight," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said following the win over L.A. "Nothing comes easily in the playoffs, but it's something we look forward to."
Portland at Real Salt Lake
O Sunday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN