It's funny how just one result can change perception.
Despite being winless in its last five matches, the immediate future of Real Salt Lake suddenly looks much brighter than it did a week ago.
In fact, getting out of Commerce City, Colo., with a 0-0 draw against archrival Colorado provided a huge boost for the Claret-and-Cobalt, who seized control of their own destiny heading into the final weekend of the Major League Soccer campaign.
If RSL can claim a home victory over Portland on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, it will stake down the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, avoiding having to play in the wild card round, as well as earn a prime opportunity to return to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2012.
It also will allow RSL to open up the first leg of a Western Conference semifinal series vs. No. 2 seed Seattle at home in what could be a critical advantage in a battle of league heavyweights.
In fact, RSL is 3-0 in two-leg tournament series when it hosts the first match, having defeated Chivas in 2008 and Columbus in 2009, followed by a win over Saprissa during the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in March of this year.
"We've got so many things going wrong, I think it's important to try to focus on one thing and build from that," RSL coach Jason Kreis said following Friday's match vs. Colorado. "For me that was this week, competing as a team, showing some pride and getting back to all the defensive details that we built this team upon. So tonight to see them walk out of here with a nil-nil draw, shutout, that means something to us and we'll look to build on it in the next week."
In addition to positioning itself strongly heading into its final match, Real's draw allowed the team to gloat once again at the expense of its rivals.
Combined with its 1-0 victory earlier this season, RSL captured the 2011 itineration of the Rocky Mountain Cup, awarded to the season series champion been the Claret-and-Cobalt and Rapids.
It's the fifth consecutive year that Real has won, following Colorado claiming the first two Cups.
It also showed RSL's re-found commitment to the doing the little things defensively as it claimed it sfirst shutout since blanking Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Sept. 17.
"It's definitely a step in the right direction especially with playoffs right around the corner," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "We keep on saying we need to get back to getting our zeros and shutouts and just pay attention to details. We took a look at tape this week and I think we pointed out a lot of things we weren't doing right and I think we corrected tonight."
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