SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake kept their hopes of a Western Conference championship and a Supporters' Shield alive with a win over Chivas USA on Wednesday, breaking out of a scoring slump with a 2-1 win in their regular-season finale.
Chivas, meanwhile, came into Rio Tinto Stadium with a very different team than the last time they faced RSL, but left with the same old result — its third loss to Salt Lake this season and fifth consecutive overall.
Four minutes into the second half, Chivas midfielder Edgar Mejía was whistled for a handball in the box. RSL's Álvaro Saborío stepped up and drilled the ball to the right side of the net as goalkeeper Tim Melia dove to the left, giving the home team a lead it would never relinquish.
Just three minutes later, Salt Lake forward Joao Plata scored what proved to be the winning goal when teammate Javier Morales was dispossessed of the ball. It fell in front of Plata, who banged in an unassisted goal from 20 yards out, catching Melia flat-footed.
Real Salt Lake squandered chance after chance over the next 15 minutes, only to see Chivas' Julio Morales pull his team within a goal the 77th minute when he slipped past defender Tony Beltran and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando. That left the home team to fend off several good Chivas chances in the last 16 minutes of play to preserve the win.
The second-half scoring followed a first half in which neither team looked overly dangerous. Chivas had four shots on goal, one on target, but never seriously threatened.
And Real continued to look like a team that has forgotten how to score. Despite 63 percent of the possession and seven shots on goal, two on target, Salt Lake had little more than half-chances off free kicks that no one could finish. And the best chances were sent directly into the hands of Melia.
Forward Erick Torres couldn't manage a goal for Chivas, but he did manage to draw yellow cards on both Salt Lake center backs — Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers — in the first 31 minutes. Torres was yellow-carded himself in stoppage time of the first half when he was whistled for a foul and communicated his displeasure to referee Silviu Petrescu.
The victory assured Real Salt Lake (16-10-8, 56 points) of finishing no worse than second in the Western Conference, and vaulted the Claret-and-Cobalt past Portland into first place in the conference and into a tie with New York at the top of the Supporters' Shield table — at least temporarily. Salt Lake needs Portland to lose to or tie to win the conference; to win the shield, Kansas City must also either lose or tie and New York must lose.
Cellar-dwelling Chivas (6-19-8, 26 points) close out their season hosting Portland on Saturday. And, ironically, the Goats could hand RSL the conference championship by winning or tying.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nick Rimando||The RSL 'keeper was up to his usual tricks, making a number of Save-of-the-Week-calibur stops, leading his club to victory.|
|2||Joao Plata||Before coming out 60 minutes into the match, the striker made a lot happen, and culminated with a skillful goal from distance.|
|3||Tim Melia||Chivas' backup came in and took charge on the field. He made a number of quality saves, but couldn't catch up to two well-placed shots.|