<strong>We’ve had success for so long (…) There are areas we need to improve, both on the field and off the field. We’re going to address those as soon as the season is over, and we’re going to look to get better in every area — both in the staff and on the team, and we’ll address those when the season’s over.</strong> – Jeff Cassar

SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake hosts conference leaders FC Dallas on Saturday, but the match has been transformed into a near-meaningless affair for the home team.

With everything to play for on Wednesday, including their last chance to stake a claim for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake lost to the Portland Timbers in controversial fashion.

The one-percent technical chance RSL has remaining to make the playoffs isn’t a driving force — the team is resigned to having missed the playoffs now — and coach Jeff Cassar has the tricky task of motivating the team.

Cassar said the full magnitude of the loss hasn’t yet set in, but the team needs to respond positively on Saturday, even if the match won’t result in a playoff berth.

“We only had two days to prepare for Dallas,” he said. “It hasn’t digested, to be honest with you, for (me). But we have a chance to come out on Saturday and show what kind of character we have.”

If the team is to show their character, they’ll have to do it against a surging FC Dallas, a team with an attacking force that Cassar called “very dynamic, very fast (and) very technical.”

"They’re pretty simple until they get (the ball) and then they’re dynamic,” he said. “As we’re building up, we’re going to need to be really mindful of what our shape is like at all times."

Second-year RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland pointed to Dallas’s strong standing in MLS — they’re jockeying with the New York Red Bulls for the Supporters’ Shield — as one of the difficulties the team will face.

“They’re a very good team, and they’re on top of the West right now,” Mulholland said. “They’re the team to beat. (They have) very strong defenders and they’ve got some lively players up top. Obviously that shows, being top of the table. So it’s going to be a difficult, difficult game.”

Saturday’s match, though, comes at a difficult time for the club, not only because of the results on Wednesday, but also because they also play again on Tuesday in the final match of CONCACAF Champions League group stage.

A win there would see them progress to the knockout round, which they haven’t done since the 2010-11 campaign when they nearly became the first MLS team to win the tournament by progressing to the final before losing to Mexican club Monterrey.

Mulholland said that while the team is focused on progressing in that tournament, performing well — and winning, of course — on Saturday is still a priority.

“We’re playing for pride and playing for the club,” he said. “Now that we haven’t made the playoffs, we’re not just going to toss the MLS games off. We’re going to try to finish out the season with three wins."

In spite of the flurry of matches that end the season, with RSL playing three times in eight days, Cassar expressed his frustration and disappointment at the team’s failure to make the playoffs after playing in the postseason the past seven straight years.

“We’ve tasted success,” Cassar said. “We’ve had success for so long (…) There are areas we need to improve, both on the field and off the field. We’re going to address those as soon as the season is over, and we’re going to look to get better in every area — both in the staff and on the team, and we’ll address those when the season’s over.”

Matt Montgomery is the managing editor of RSL Soapbox.

Twitter: TheCrossbarRSL

Email: montgomery.matt@gmail.com