Real Salt Lake (13-8-6) crushed Columbus Crew (8-12-5 ) 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Skipper Kyle Beckerman scored a brace, while Devon Sandoval and Luis Gil scored a goal each.
RSL were coming into the game with an indifferent form with only a solitary win in the last six league games, despite their top position in the Western Conference. The hosts, however, would take heart from their midweek performance, trailing with 10 men and coming back with a late Cole Grossman leveler. RSL were also boosted by the return of Nick Rimando and skipper Kyle Beckerman, who had missed the last game due to illness and suspension respectively.
Columbus Crew was coming on the back of two wins, having defeated Toronto FC 2-0 with a brace from captain Federico Higuain. Crew also have a historically good record against RSL – 10-4-1 in the regular season prior to the match.
The first chance came to the Claret and Cobalt, as an RSL break-away found Chris Wingert in space. The left-back cut back for forward Olmes Garcia, whose shot was crucially cleared by the Crew defense, with their goalkeeper Matt Lampson off-position.
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This set the pace for the first quarter, with RSL looking to win the ball high up the pitch and releasing the forwards quickly. Crew, on the other hand, countered from deep within their own half and tested the RSL full-backs down the channels. As the half wore on, the home team saw much lengthier spells on possession without much to show for in the scoresheet. Between 32nd to 35th minute, the home team notched up two free-kicks and three back-to-back corners. The closest they came to scoring from these set-pieces was a glancing header from Garcia from a Morales FK, which went wide after a Crew touch.
The only Crew chance of the half came in the 37th minute after Ned Gravaboy gave the ball away in midfield and Dominic Odura found Federico Higuain in the box. The forward’s shot from a very tight angle tested keeper Rimando but the rebound was cleared away by RSL defense.
The home team finally broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time as a Javier Morales free-kick got a fortuitous touch from Kyle Beckerman in the box. The deflection defeated a wrong-footed Matt Lampson.
RSL maintained the tempo and extended their lead in the 51st minute after winning the ball in midfield and releasing Garcia in the right-hand side. The forward’s low-cross found his strike partner Devon Sandoval, who made no mistake from close range.
The floodgates soon opened following the goal, as Devon Sandoval and Kyle Beckerman found themselves on promising positions on two separate occasions. Sandoval’s header went over the bar, whereas the captain’s chipped cross fell tamely to keeper Lampson. The Crew, on the other hand, gave the ball away cheaply on numerous occasions, as their build-up play lacked any conviction or momentum.
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The hosts soon piled on the misery for the visitors in the 83rd minute with a brilliantly crafted goal from Luis Gil. Midfielder Ned Gravaboy managed to thread a ball through a narrow and crowded attacking third and Gil made space for himself to neatly finish past Lampson.
The final blow came in the 89th minute when a Velasquez cross from the left wing dropped nicely for skipper Kyle Beckerman. The midfielder netted in the team’s fourth with a well-timed strike, capping off a very convincing performance from Kreis’ men.
The disastrous night for the team in black and gold continued as Columbus Crew skipper Higuain was sent off following his second yellow just before the final whistle.
Real Salt Lake notches up 45 points with the win, as they lead the Western Conference and the overall standings heading into an important hme tie against Portland Timbers. Columbus Crew languishes with 29 points as they host at Columbus Crew stadium on August 31.
RSL XI: Rimando, Beltran, Salcedo, Borchers, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy (Grossman 87’), Gil, Morales; Sandoval (Velasquez 81’), Garcia (Findley 62’).
Crew XI: Lampson; Barson, Marshall, Williams, Viana; Oduro, O’Rourke (Tchani 62’), Trapp, Speas (Finley 73’); Higuaín, Arrieta (Warzycha 62’)