We're in playoff mode already, and ours just started a little bit earlier than everybody else's. We just have to be ready to go, and go out and play our best. If we play our best, then we feel like we can win. – RSL captain Kyle Beckerman

Real Salt Lake's playoff hopes, seemingly out of grasp weeks ago, are back in clear view but just out of reach.

Wednesday's match against Portland Timbers is a must-win if they're to get a firm hold on it — but while the phrase "must-win" is sometimes tossed around aimlessly as the start of MLS playoffs come into view, RSL's match against the Portland Timbers embodies it.

Sitting three points behind Portland in the standings with only three matches left in the season, a win would put RSL, San Jose and Houston Dynamo in a three-way tie on 44 points at sixth place, where they'll jockey for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games remaining for each team.

Returning from international duty, Real Salt Lake's captain, Kyle Beckerman, said the team's in an unusual position. Having made the playoffs for seven straight years before 2015, the team hasn't been in such a must-win crunch to end the season in years.

The crunch has lent a playoff atmosphere to the team, Beckerman said.

"We're in playoff mode already, and ours just started a little bit earlier than everybody else's," he said. "We just have to be ready to go, and go out and play our best. If we play our best, then we feel like we can win."

Tony Beltran, who hasn't missed the playoffs since being drafted out of UCLA by Real Salt Lake in 2008, said the team's focus isn't keeping the streak for its own sake.

"We’re not really conscious about keeping the streak alive," he said. "That’s not really our priority. Of course, we want to make the playoffs, but that’s it right there. We just want to make the playoffs, so we understand what’s in front of us and what needs to be done, and that’s entirely our focus."

Beckerman and fellow U.S. teammate Nick Rimando were a slight doubt for RSL on Wednesday, given they were both called into the United States national team squad for match against Mexico and Costa Rica on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively.

The club made a request for an early return for both players, which the U.S. Soccer Federation complied with. That gives a boost in a difficult run-up, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said.

"Anytime you get into this time of the year, you need your players, you need your leaders," Cassar said. "Obviously, Nick and Kyle are both that, so I thank US Soccer for recognizing the importance of our players in this playoff push."

Opportunity knocks for Jordan Allen

RSL's young, talented winger Jordan Allen has been making waves in MLS with surprising quality everywhere he's played, whether it's at outside back, in the midfield, or on the wing.

Should he start, Wednesday presents another opportunity for Allen to impress.

With Demar Phillips missing the match through yellow card accumulation and Abdoulie Mansally away on international duty with the Gambian national team, it leaves a gap in the squad.

Allen is likely to be drafted in at right back, where he's already played several times in 2015, with Tony Beltran moving to the left.

The chance to impress that comes with other players' absences isn't lost on Allen, the second-year winger, but he said his focus isn't personal.

"It’s just another opportunity," he said. "The only pressure I feel is the pressure that I put on myself to perform, but really, I'm focusing mostly on what I can do to help the team, because at this point, it's more about what I can do to help the team than what I can do to help myself."

Matt Montgomery is the managing editor of RSL Soapbox.

Twitter: TheCrossbarRSL

Email: montgomery.matt@gmail.com