RSL not panicking, but feels importance of game against Vancouver Whitecaps

Los Angeles FC's Jose Cifuentes, left, and Eduard Atuesta, right, work against Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

One win.

That’s all Real Salt Lake needs to get back in the playoff picture.

One win.

That’s all RSL has been able to muster in its previous six games.

So as the 2020 Major League Soccer season comes to a close with just seven games remaining, Salt Lake is facing a dichotomous situation that shares the same metric. Going into Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, RSL sits in 10th place in the Western Conference but just three points away from sixth.

“We know what we have to do. It’s obvious,” goalkeeper Andrew Putna said after Wednesday’s loss to the Seattle Sounders. “We put ourselves in this position over the last couple of weeks.”

The only win RSL has earned in its previous six games was a 2-0 result over the L.A. Galaxy. In the three games since, Real are on a three-game winless streak.

But the refrain from the team has consistently been that it’s not time to press the panic button.

“It’s definitely urgent,” defender Aaron Herrera said Friday via videoconference. “But we’re definitely not panicking yet.”

A slightly different sentiment is coming from Vancouver’s side of things. Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos told local media Wednesday that both his team and RSL and in the same position: do what it takes to get a playoff spot.

“Guys want to play this like they’re playing a final,” Dos Santos said of his team.

Dos Santos added that he anticipates the atmosphere Saturday to feel like a playoff game.

“The intensity of the game, I expect the fight in the game is going to be all [heightened] due to what’s at stake,” Dos Santos said.


When • Saturday, 8 p.m. MDT


RSL coach Freddy Juarez said his players know that every point matters as the season winds down, and they talked about it among themselves. He doesn’t feel he needs to dangle the idea that the game is a final in order to motivate them.

Juarez also put himself and his assistants in the camp that knows full well the impact of the upcoming game. He said he looks at a chart with every Western Conference team that shows their next games.

“The staff and I know how important it is because we’re the ones that get fired first,” Juarez said. “So trust us. We look at all that stuff.”

The last time RSL played the Whitecaps, it lost 2-1 at home in a game where it finished with 10 men on the field for the second time in as many games. But Juarez said there’s plenty that he took away from that game tactically that he can use for Saturday.

But above all else, Salt Lake just wants that one win.

“It’s not dramatic, it’s not tragic,” midfielder Damir Kreilach said. “We need one win to move forward. And of course, let’s say maybe because of this situation right now, this is how the best comes from us, from the team. It can happen tomorrow. ... It’s a game that you will give everything to get three points."