Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — The discussion about who the best team in Major League Soccer is came to an emphatic end Saturday night.
Let's just say, David Beckham now knows what all the fuss is about at Rio Tinto Stadium.
In arguably the most impressive performance in team history, Real Salt Lake put a whopping on the mighty L.A. Galaxy 4-1 in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,507 — a new stadium record for an MLS match.
The onslaught began in the second minute and lasted the entire match.
"This is special for us because we know they're one of the best teams in this league, and to beat them here, home, 4-1 and playing good soccer. It's good for us," said RSL midfielder Javier Morales, who finished with two goals and an assist.
Coach Jason Kreis was particularly pleased about the first half.
"That's probably 45 minutes of the best soccer I've seen in this stadium and from this team. It was a shear delight to watch that," said Kreis.
The victory extended RSL's unbeaten streak at home over all competitions to 36 straight, and in league play RSL is unbeaten in 16 matches dating back to last July.
Off to its first 2-0 start in team history, RSL will now turn its attention to the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series at Saprissa on April 5.
Well before several thousand fans had even found their seats Saturday, Real Salt Lake had already seized momentum with the second fastest goal in team history.
Just 1:24 into the match, Paulo Jr. slipped a cross through the box to Andy Williams who slotted it home through traffic for the 1-0 lead.
Last year RSL needed 80 minutes to break down L.A.'s compact defense in a 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium. It scored four goals in that same span in Saturday's much-hyped match between who many believe are the two best teams in MLS.
"We just wanted to get on them early like we do any team here. It always helps when you get that early goal. Once we got that we kept rolling," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
Beckham nearly equalized for the Galaxy in the fourth minute, but his long-range free kick caromed off the left post.
The goal would've surely settled L.A. down, but instead the home team continued to press the issue.
Morales eventually doubled RSL's advantage with a penalty kick in the 10th minute after Paulo Jr. was barreled over the in the box by Galaxy back-up keeper Josh Saunders. L.A.'s players insisted Paulo Jr. was offside when Fabian Espindola lofted the pass into the box, but the linesman kept his flag down.
Paulo Jr., making his first MLS start, was dangerous the entire night as he paired very well with Espindola up top.
Shortly before halftime, Real Salt Lake upped its lead to 3-0 on a wonder goal by Morales, who received a quick throw-in from Chris Wingert and raced laterally toward the top of the box where he unspooled a laser shot into the upper right corner of the net.
"That's how we play, we're aggressive at home, even when we go on the road that's the only way we really know how to play," said Nick Rimando.
The goal brought everyone in attendance, including BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, to their feet. With the best home-field advantage in MLS, nothing should be surprising anymore.
"It didn't surprise me. You never know what's going to happen, but it doesn't surprise me," said Beckerman.
In five matches between league play and the Champions League, RSL is 4-0-1 this year with 11 goals scored and two surrendered.
Not wanting to get left out of the scoring fun, Paulo Jr. put Salt Lake ahead 4-0 with an easy finish in the 67th minute. Espindola delivered the uncontested cross after Galaxy defenders Sean Franklin and A.J. DeLaGarza collided about 40 yards from goal.
With a light drizzle coming down in the second half, Los Angeles capitalized on miscommunication at the back between Rimando and Jamison Olave as Juan Pablo Angel tapped in an easy finish from five yards out in the 80th minute.
By then, however, the outcome was already well in hand.
"We know that we're better than that, but we have to prove it on the field. We've got to make sure for the next game we get it right," said Angel.
For RSL it will take a few days off next week before gearing up for the Saprissa match.
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