RABAT, Morocco (AP) – Real Salt Lake is already headed to the playoffs for a fourth straight year, but is eager to show that the defensive breakdown in its last game was an anomaly.
On Wednesday night, Salt Lake will try to extend its 406-minute shutout streak against the visiting Chicago Fire, who are looking to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.
RSL had its season-best five-game winning streak snapped by a 4-1 loss at D.C. United on Saturday. It was the most goals given up in a game this season by the club, which is second in the league in goals allowed with 27.
With Salt Lake in the midst of a busy stretch in its schedule, coach Jason Kreis decided to rest several starters, but the gamble didn't pay off. United scored four goals in the first 31 minutes, with Alvaro Saborio's tally in the 86th minute preventing the shutout.
"I really kind of had that feeling that things were going to go well," Kreis said. "And then the first goal comes and the reactions just weren't good enough."
Salt Lake (15-8-6) clinched a spot in the postseason anyway thanks to other results, and it remains in third place in the Western Conference, three points behind second-place Seattle.
It could get a major boost down the stretch from playmaker Javier Morales, who appears set to return after suffering a gruesome broken ankle May 7. He was on the active roster Saturday, but did not play.
"I felt like the game was lost and that there was probably nothing positive that could come out of playing (Morales)," Kreis said. "Also, frankly I kind of wanted his first minutes to be at home ... so we'll look for Wednesday."
RSL is looking for a better defensive effort going forward, no matter who is starting.
"We expect a lot from our guys who come in off the bench, so we definitely need to work on a few things to get better," defender Nat Borchers said.
Salt Lake has a good opportunity to bounce back Wednesday considering its recent defensive domination of the Fire. RSL is 2-0-3 in its last five against Chicago and has not allowed a goal to the Fire since Sept. 12, 2009.
The teams played to a scoreless tie June 22 in Illinois, but it may be tougher for the Fire on the road, where they're 1-6-7. RSL has the league's second-best home record at 10-2-3.
Chicago (6-8-15) has won four of five overall, including its last two, but the Fire still sit six points behind New York for the final wild-card spot with three other teams between the two.
Chicago beat New England 3-2 on Sunday, taking an early 3-0 lead before allowing two Revolution goals in the closing minutes. Dominic Oduro scored his team-leading 11th goal and sixth in the last eight games.
"It's just matter of keeping this streak going and see what happens," Oduro said.
Sebastian Grazzini started the scoring on a penalty kick in the fourth minute. He also had an assist on Oduro's score, but he'll miss Wednesday's game after injuring his hamstring Sunday. He has three goals and four assists in nine games.