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Real Salt Lake’s playoff hopes dashed in lackluster loss at LA Galaxy Sunday night

Real Salt Lake’s Damir Kreilach, front, and Los Angeles Galaxy’s Giancarlo Gonzalez chase the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Decision Day won’t mean anything for Real Salt Lake next weekend.

RSL was officially eliminated from the MLS Playoff chase with its 2-1 loss at the LA Galaxy on Sunday night, combined with Colorado’s surprising win over Seattle.

No matter what happens in the regular season finale at Rio Tinto Stadium next Sunday against Kansas City, mathematically RSL can’t catch either Colorado or San Jose in the Western Conference standings, which are now sorted by points per game because not every team will end up playing the same amount of games.

RSL liked its playoff chance five weeks ago coming off a 2-0 home victory over the Galaxy, but since that game, coach Freddy Juarez’s team has limped toward the finish line of the shortened season with a 1-5-2 record.

In the sorted ppg Western Conference standings, RSL now sits in a 10th-place tie with the Galaxy and is in danger of finishing dead last if results don’t go its way on Decision Day.

Like has been the case most of the season, another poor start doomed RSL on Sunday.

LA’s Giancarlo Gonzalez headed in the game’s first goal in the 18th minute on a set piece cross from Sebastian Lletget. Gonzalez positioned himself just in between Everton Luiz and Damir Kreilach to win the header.

It was the 13th time this season RSL conceded the game’s first goal, and only once in those 13 tries did rally for the win.

RSL nearly pulled a goal back on a breakaway chance from Corey Baird early in the second half, but after his chipped shot went up and over LA’s keeper, Gonzalez tracked back quickly to clear the ball off the line, inches before it crossed for the equalizer.

The dagger for Real Salt Lake’s 2020 season came in the 65th minute as Cristian Pavon collected a giveaway on the left wing and then burst past three players before a clinical finish past Andrew Putna.

Needing three goals to save the season, Juarez made two attacking-minded subs in the 72nd minute, inserting Douglas Martinez and Maikel Chang into the match for Everton Luiz and Donny Toia.

It paid dividends within six minutes, as Martinez stepped in front of an LA defender to head in a cross from Justin Meram to trim the deficit to 2-1 in the 78th minute.

Despite decent possession over the final 12 minutes, RSL never really threatened for the tying goal.

RSL finished the game outshooting the Galaxy 9-8 and enjoyed a 65 percent edge in possession. Despite being on the ball nearly two-thirds of the game, it wasn’t threatening possession as it lacked the necessary runs in behind all night.