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MLS Playoff Push: Salt Lake Edition

The surprising late season surge of Salt Lake has captured the attention of MLS fans throughout the nation. With three weeks left, Salt Lake is currently poised to capture the third seed in the West and qualify for their first ever postseason appearance.

RSL starts its bid for MLS Cup glory by playing its first ever home game at Rio Tinto Stadium this Thursday night against the Red Bulls on ESPN2. Surely, Salt Lake cannot be lacking for motivation as this all-important game approaches. Then, RSL will have nine days to prepare for Dallas at home before finishing the season on the road against the Rapids.

As one can see, Salt Lake is the only team still fighting for a playoff spot that will have to play three other feisty teams seeking postseason positions, which is a big detriment. While other teams finish against the cream of the MLS crop, teams that have already qualified or appear sure to qualify will approach the last few games conservatively. Meanwhile, RSL’s foes will be laying it all on the line.

I still think RSL gets the third spot in the West though. They have two home games left and have only lost at home once all season. Moreover, their new stadium, coupled with their first shot at the playoffs, should bring out the fans to torment their opponents. I suspect they will get a W this Thursday and procure at least a draw on October 18th, which will likely be enough to push them into the postseason.

As RSL has split games with Dallas and Colorado, those games will be even more exciting as point total ties are decided by the tied teams’ head-to-head matchups. It’s not unthinkable that Colorado and RSL could be playing a unique game for survival on October 25th. If so, RSL better hope they can keep their recent road surge alive at the Dick on their regular season’s final day.

I’m betting Morales and Movsisyan get this team into the big dance. If not, RSL fans will have to wait another year to see if their squad can finally crack its long playoff drought.