Real Salt Lake knew what was at stake. The players knew. The coaches knew.
They knew, and they let it happen.
RSL’s playoff aspirations ended Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the host L.A. Galaxy and Colorado’s 3-1 win over Seattle, the other result in the Western Conference that made the points-per-game math insurmountable for RSL.
“It’s disappointing and I know the guys are disappointed” coach Freddy Juarez said. “I feel for them, I feel for my staff, I feel for the club, I feel for the fans.”
Midfielder Damir Kreilach and defender Justen Glad also expressed disappointment now that RSL (5-9-7) will miss the playoffs for the first time in three years. Real was eliminated in the West semifinals in 2018 and 2019.
Kreilach went so far as to apologize to RSL fans for how the season played out. Glad lamented the times the club could’ve earned more wins but didn’t.
“I think we had plenty of opportunities this year to get results and pick up points and we failed to do so,” Glad said. “I speak for the whole team when I say we’re upset. It’s very disappointing.”
RSL conceded the first goal in the 18th minute to Giancarlo González when he scored a header on a set piece. It was the 13th time this season Salt Lake gave up the first goal to an opponent.
Cristian Pavón ran past three RSL defenders and provided a finish in the 65th, giving the Galaxy (6-11-3) a 2-0 lead.
Salt Lake cut its deficit in half in the 78th minute when Douglas Martinez, who had subbed in a few minutes earlier, headed in a goal off Justin Meram’s pass.
RSL almost had a goal earlier in the second when Corey Baird received a long direct pass and attempted to chip over Galaxy’s goalkeeper. He was successful, but as the ball bounced toward the goal, it was athletically cleared off the line by Gonzalez.
RSL had nine shots to L.A.'s four, but only one of those was on target. The team also outpossessed the Galaxy, 64.5% to 35.5%.
Overall, RSL’s performance against the Galaxy looked much like others, Juarez said. The team felt like it controlled much of the game, but lacked that finishing touch. Glad agreed with him.
“I thought we were on top of them for a lot of the game,” Glad said. “But what it comes down to at the end of the day is goals. You need to score goals in soccer and we weren’t dangerous in front of goal.”
RSL will face Sporting Kansas City, which has already clinched a playoff spot, at home next Sunday. It’s a game that won’t mean much overall, but RSL wants to win for its fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in the final match of the 2020 season.
“Motivation is there,” Juarez said. “Why? Because the fans deserve it. They pay to watch us. They support us. They deserve the last energy that we have [and the last mental strength that we have] and give it all.”