SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake are feeling conflicted.
On one hand, they are frustrated with a 0-0 draw against the LA Galaxy on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal. On the other, they're optimistic, feeling like they’re in a really good position to advance to the next round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T.
“Of course, we wanted to win,” said RSL defender Tony Beltran to reporters after the match, “we were pushing for a goal there at the end. But we're in a very good position.”
With MLS incorporating a new away goals tiebreaker this postseason, Saturday’s result means that RSL can advance to the Western Conference final with a win or a non-scoreless draw in the series’ second leg at LA next Sunday, Nov. 9. But if the sides are tied 0-0 at the end of regulation in the second leg, the series will move to extra time and, if necessary, will be decided by penalties.
“We put ourselves in a really good position,” defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “We didn't give up any goals to them, because those away goals, they count more this year. That was important. So if we tie 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 out there, we go through. So I think we have the upper hand.”
RSL may have been singing an even happier tune if it weren’t for the performance of LA ‘keeperJaime Penedo, who made six key saves to keep the claret-and-cobalt off the scoreboard.
“I thought we played a great game on both sides of the ball tonight,” said RSL head coach Jeff Cassar. “Obviously, their goalkeeper had a very, very good night. On a different night, we could be in an unbelievable position.
“But right now, I think we're in a great position, especially with these away goals. If we're going to create this many chances possibly in LA, I give us a really good chance.”
Cassar wasn't altogether willing to say that the clean sheet was more important than scoring a goal.
“Obviously, the goal when you have a home game isn't just a shutout,” he said. “It's to play aggressive, and the boys did that tonight right from the whistle.... On a different night, I think we have four or five goals.”
But, as a result of the shutout — Real Salt Lake's fourth in a row — “I think we're in a really, really good spot to get a result there,” Cassar said.
“Of course, I'd rather be up 3-0 than 0-0,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “But we all knew this was a 180-minute game and whether we were winning or we were tied or losing, there's still a lot left to play.”
“We've just got to go do it,” he added.