On the heels of its worst defeat in franchise history, Real Salt Lake knows there's no time to dwell, especially this week.

With home games against Western Conference foes Los Angeles tonight and Colorado Saturday, this is easily the most important four-day stretch of the season for RSL's playoff push.

If Real wins both games and gets some help across the league, coach John Ellinger's club could be sitting in a second-place tie with Houston at week's end. At the other end of the spectrum, if RSL stumbles like it did during a 6-0 loss at New York last week and loses both games, the playoffs could quickly become a fleeting hope with a six-point deficit and only six games remaining.

"We haven't won many games at home, so I think now's a good time to show our fans we're the team to bet on," said midfielder Carey Talley.

It starts with the Galaxy tonight at 7, and the players insist that's the only opponent they're thinking of.

"It's going to be a huge week, but we can't start looking ahead to Colorado yet," said Andy Williams. "Us and L.A. are tied with the same points right now, so it's going to be a battle."

With 29 points each, the Galaxy and Real are deadlocked in fifth place in the West standings. Only four teams qualify for the playoffs, therefore both teams know the time to make a push is now.

They're not just chasing one opponent. L.A. and Real trail fourth-place Colorado by three points, third-place Chivas by five and second-place Houston by six. Each West team except Chivas has two games this week.

"It's a pretty big week for us obviously," said Ellinger. "First task is beating L.A. and getting three points away from them, and then seeing what's going to happen with Colorado on the weekend."

The biggest challenge facing Real Salt Lake is recapturing the confidence and enthusiasm it possessed before its four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt at New York. While the players insist that shouldn't be a problem, Real's opponent may have something to say about that.

As shorthanded RSL was getting clobbered by New York last weekend, the Galaxy were taking it to D.C. United, as they walked away with a convincing 5-2 victory over MLS's best team.

Something has to give on the pitch tonight.

"I would hope they would do the right thing and rise again," said Ellinger, who added that he hopes the blowout loss makes his players more motivated than ever.

RSL's hopes tonight likely hinge on its ability to contain Landon Donovan. The Galaxy have scored seven goals in their last two games, with the recharged Donovan having a hand in almost all of them.

"It's all about Landon," said Williams. "Once you contain him, I personally don't think there's anybody else to hurt us."

Will players like Chris Albright and Santino Quaranta, both of whom have U.S. National Team experience, ultimately prove Williams wrong?

ENDLINES: Salt Lake defender Nelson Akwari is scheduled to start in place of Jack Stewart, who is suspended because of his red card against New York. RSL does, however, get Scott Garlick back on the field. He was suspended for the New York game because of an accumulation of yellow cards.

RSL on the air

L.A. Galaxy at Real Salt Lake

Rice-Eccles Stadium,

Today, 7 p.m.

TV: DirectKick

Radio: AM 700 (English); AM 1600 (Spanish)

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com