When Kyle Beckerman sat down to watch MLS games last week, he experienced an odd feeling.
“I was more nervous to watch the games than I am to play in them,” he said. “I turned the TV on and I was like, ‘Why am I nervous all of a sudden?’ I couldn’t explain it.”
When Houston’s home match against Kansas City rolled around Wednesday, Beckerman opted to get updates second-hand. That was a common experience for Real Salt Lake players during their bye last weekend. Over the past two weeks both Dallas and Houston, which flanked RSL in the Western Conference standings entering the international break, played games that knocked RSL below the playoff line.
“I need to be playing basketball with my kids or something during that time,” RSL coach Mike Petke said of crucial Western Conference matches.
Petke said he pores over film after the games are finished. But watching live without any control over the outcome? No, thank you.
FC Dallas limped to a 1-1 draw at Colorado last Saturday, giving it a one-point advantage over RSL. Then on Wednesday, Houston beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 to expand its lead over RSL to four points.
It could still be possible for RSL to sneak into the playoffs without collecting six points in its final two regular season matches, at Colorado on Sunday and against Kansas City at home on Oct. 22. But even winning out the season doesn’t guarantee the team a postseason.
It wasn’t just games that RSL had to follow during the break, either. The league’s ruling on FC Dallas’s roster violation in its Sept. 30 match against Orlando City also affected RSL’s position.
The league announced last Friday that it had fined FC Dallas $75,000 of general allocation money, plus an additional $25,000 for playing an ineligible player. If Dallas had been forced to forfeit the tie instead of being fined, it would have dropped down to 42 points, tied with RSL.
Before MLS announced its decision, RSL coach Mike Petke said he thought the situation called for a forfeit. Petke said he wanted to make clear, however, his disagreement with MLS’ decision didn’t reflect an overall negativity toward the league.
“There’s no one [that’s] a bigger supporter of MLS,” he said. “I grew up in this league. I coach in this league now. I love this league.”
With the league’s decision, Dallas sits in the last playoff spot in the West. RSL is tied with San Jose at 42 points for seventh place, one point behind Dallas.
Finally, after months of talk about Houston’s and Dallas’ games in hand, each team has two games left in the regular season.
“It’s obviously nice seeing where everyone stands when we’ve all played the same amount of games,” center back Justen Glad said. “But I think if we win the next two there’s a really good shot we’re in playoffs, and I think everyone out here is up for it.”
Real Salt Lake at Colorado
At Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
Kickoff » 5:30 p.m.
TV » KMYU
Radio » 700 AM
Records » RSL 12-14-6, Colorado 8-18-6
Last meeting » RSL won 4-1 (Aug. 26, at Rio Tinto Stadium)
About Colorado » The Rapids were eliminated from the playoffs almost two weeks ago. … Colorado is coming off a draw with FC Dallas last week. … Defender Jared Watts is suspended for the match. Midfielder Michael Azira is questionable for the match with an ankle injury. …Goalkeeper Tim Howard returns from international duty, where he started for USA in both World Cup qualifiers.
About RSL » RSL has already beaten Colorado twice this season to claim the Rocky Mountain Cup. … Luis Silva (groin) and Demar Phillips (hamstring) are expected to return from injury to be available for the match. … Center back Marcelo Silva is suspended due to a red card in RSL’s last match. … Winger Jefferson Savarino remains out with an ankle sprain. … RSL’s Jordan Allen, Omar Holness, Chad Barrett (knee surgeries) and Ricardo Velazco (ankle) remain out for the season.