HERRIMAN — The odds were slim, but at the end of the day, Real Salt Lake only needed one thing to go its way on Sunday — a Houston result in L.A.
That was easy compared to what Real Salt Lake needed to unfold on the final day of the 2009 season to secure a playoff berth, momentum the club rode to the unlikely MLS Cup title.
RSL needed four results to go its way on that October night nine years, a parlay with much longer odds than what the club faced on Sunday hoping for a Houston miracle.
And now whether you’re the first or last team to qualify for the playoffs, the slate is wiped clean something Kyle Beckerman knows from firsthand experience after what transpired in 2009.
“We know that when you get in anything can happen. We’ve got to get hot, we’ve got to get in a good form and try and find that feeling where you can’t lose, if we can get that anything’s possible,” said Beckerman, whose team will play at Los Angeles FC on Thursday (8:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the one-game knockout round.
Houston’s 3-2 win on Sunday despite a 2-0 halftime deficit made it all possible, which looking back on what transpired on that chaotic, historic night on Oct. 24, 2009, it all seems like a walk in the park.
The first of four dominos to fall that night fell surprisingly easily, with the last-place New York Red Bulls trouncing Toronto FC 5-0. Current RSL coach Mike Petke played a small role in that favorable result as he was a starting center back that night in 2009, even though he was subbed off in the first half because of an injury with his team already leading 1-0.
The loss denied Toronto a playoff berth and kept RSL’s hopes alive.
The second domino looked like it wasn’t going to fall. While Real Salt Lake was on the field beating Colorado 3-0 early in the second half that night, in Kansas City visiting D.C. United was just a few minutes away from polishing off a road win and clinching the final playoff berth.
A “Hand of God” came to the rescue though for Real Salt Lake, specifically a handball from D.C. United’s Fred in stoppage time. That gave Kansas City a penalty kick to tie the game at 2-2 — keeping RSL’s playoff hopes alive.
After the final whistle blew on RSL’s win over Colorado for the third domino, it still needed one more shoe to drop in Seattle with an FC Dallas loss, which didn’t look promising either as Dallas led 1-0 at the half.
Seattle rallied for the 2-1 win though with many players watching in the Rio Tinto Stadium locker room, capping a wild night where a quartet of results unfolded exactly as they needed for Real Salt Lake.
As Beckerman left the stadium that night he talked briefly with reporters about the crazy night.
“We believed if we win this game it's going to work for us, and that's exactly what happened," said Kyle Beckerman. "It's dancing time. New season. It's going to be tough, but we've got a home game next week we can focus on."
That was the same belief Beckerman talked about last week in hoping big underdog Houston could beat the Galaxy. Now the focus shifts to beating a LAFC team that’s already beat Real Salt Lake twice this year.
“It’s just going to take a massive, massive effort from everyone," Beckerman said. "All year we put in a lot of tough work, and it’s not just the 11 or the guys that are playing, it’s every single player on the team, and it’s going to take every single one — same thing.”