Real Salt Lake’s doubtful path to a playoff berth became more of a long shot earlier this week with MLS’s anticipated announcement regarding playoff qualification.
Because COVID-19 canceled numerous games in October — most involving Colorado — the league announced that playoff qualification would be determined by points per game, not total points.
The announcement vaulted Colorado from 11th place to eighth in the Western Conference standings with one week remaining, and conversely dropped RSL down a spot from ninth to 10th.
Climbing back into a top eight playoff position will be extremely difficult for RSL with just two games remaining, beginning on Sunday at the L.A. Galaxy (8:30 p.m., KMYU).
RSL wraps up the regular season next Sunday at home against Kansas City.
“To have a shot to win it, we have to win both games,” defender Justen Glad told the media in a Zoom call earlier this week.
Even with a pair of victories to close the season, RSL isn’t guaranteed a playoff spot. The maximum points per game that RSL can finish with is 1.272. On Saturday afternoon, Colorado sat on 1.266 ppg, and the Rapids still have three games remaining over the next week. Four points over those three games would guarantee they finish higher in the standings.
Colorado’s last three games are against Seattle, Portland and Houston, so collecting four points won’t be a walk in the park, but the Rapids aren’t the only team RSL needs to worry about. It must also leap ninth-place Vancouver, which has two games remaining. If Vancouver wins out against Portland and the Galaxy, it’s guaranteed to finish higher in the standings than RSL.
A Vancouver win and a tie, however, would allow RSL to slip ahead by .05 ppg with a pair of victories. But it would still need to leapfrog Colorado.
Lastly, there’s still an outside chance RSL could slip ahead of seventh-place San Jose — which it just lost to on Wednesday 2-0. San Jose sits five points ahead of RSL in the normal standings, but it needs to win one of its last two games, against Seattle and LAFC, to prevent the possibility of being vaulted over by RSL.
None of those scenarios matter if Real Salt Lake doesn’t start winning games, which it has only done five times in 2020. One of those five wins came against the Galaxy back on Sept. 23, a result it desperately needs to replicate on Sunday.
“What we can control is going over there with the right attitude, putting in the right energy and looking to win the game. There’s six points out there,” coach Freddy Juarez said in a Zoom call with the media this week.
The Galaxy are 1-8-1 over the past 10 games and this week fired head coach Guillermo Barros Schelloto.
Juarez said it’s not an ideal time to be playing the Galaxy.
“We all know how teams react when they get a new guy in,” he said.
Even the Galaxy are still mathematically in the hunt for the last playoff seed if they win out and get some help, which illustrates the potential for a wild finish to end the season.