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Real Salt Lake looking forward to playoffs, not back to winless skid

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (10) tries to kick the ball into the goal as Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City play to a 0-0 tie at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016.
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (10) tries to kick the ball into the goal as Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City play to a 0-0 tie at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016.
Scott G Winterton,

SANDY — There’s a cliché that’s tossed around in MLS that wins in March are worth three points just like wins in October.

That’s why despite ending the regular season on a seven-game winless skid, Real Salt Lake isn’t talking about backing into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

“The spirits are good in the locker room. I think we feel like it’s a body of work that got us here,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.

That body of work had RSL positioned near the top of the Western Conference standings most of the season, but it drifted to sixth on the final day of the season with a loss at Seattle. Now the club must hit the road for Wednesday’s one-game playoff at No. 3 seed Los Angeles (8:30 p.m., KMYU).

RSL could’ve hosted one of the two Western Conference one-game playoff matches with a win at Seattle, but coach Jeff Cassar isn’t looking back and wondering “what if.”

“It’s done. I’m not talking about that because it’s over,” said Cassar. “We’ve got to go to L.A. and get the result to make it to the next round, so I’m not going to talk about any frustration we have at all. We have an experienced group, a group that’s hungry, and we accomplished a goal.”

After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in seven years last season, Cassar said one of the priorities this season was to make the postseason.

A strong start made it possible.

Real Salt Lake posted a 4-0-2 record in the first six games this season — the longest unbeaten stretch to open the 2016 MLS season. It never had an unbeaten stretch longer than three games the rest of the way, but its 8-12-8 record after that strong start was good enough to narrowly secure a playoff berth.

“The fact we made the playoffs after a bad stretch I think is a testament to the work we put in throughout the year and how good we’ve been at times, so now it’s just about rediscovering that form and it starts on Wednesday against L.A.,” said Jordan Allen.

As the sixth seed, Allen doesn’t consider RSL to be an underdog against anyone heading into the playoffs.

“I don’t think anybody in MLS wants to play against us. They know the players we have, they know the capabilities we have,” said Allen.

That potential has produced only two goals in the past sixth matches, which is way Rio Tinto Stadium won’t be rocking this Wednesday.

“Obviously disappointed for the last month, but the end of the day playoffs is a new season, it’s one game. We’re due for a win. We’re excited for this new opportunity,” said Yura Movsisyan.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com