SANDY — Whatever they did, whether it was buying fertilizer at Home Depot, eating lunch at Quiznos or just laying around on the couch playing FIFA, the superstitious starters for Real Salt Lake on Saturday night will want to duplicate those mundane details again and again and again this season.
Spurred on by a sensational first-half performance in front of 19,064 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake overwhelmed struggling San Jose on its way to a convincing 3-0 victory.
The damage was the result of a spectacular 22-minute stretch in the first half, when RSL could seemingly do nothing wrong, running circles around the ‘Quakes to the tune of three goals.
San Jose obviously never recovered.
“We’ve spoke about, 'Can we put away multiple (goals) to kind of kill off the game a little bit and give us some breathing room?' And we did that tonight,” said midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis took a bit of gamble in starting three players who logged 120 minutes in a U.S. Open Cup victory Tuesday, and he was rewarded handsomely as Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert were all instrumental in the dismantling of the Earthquakes.
With the victory, Real Salt Lake (7-5-3) vaulted past Portland into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference. San Jose, meanwhile, slipped into eighth a year after winning the Supporters' Shield.
For Real Salt Lake, the collective performance was easily its best of 2013. After a slow start, it scored in the 16th, 33rd and 38th minutes, a stretch that forced San Jose coach Frank Yallop to burn two first-half subs. The Earthquakes didn’t register a single shot on goal.
Even in the second half when San Jose started to generate a dangerous attack, Grabavoy believes RSL dealt with the circumstances very well.
“The soccer wasn’t necessarily there in the second half and it was a little sloppy, but in saying that I think we battled hard with some big guys on their team and some dangerous balls in the box,” said Grabavoy. “Those things are just as important as the attractive soccer going forward and creating chances. Shutouts are important to this team. That’s why we were so dominant for a few years there.”
Morales opened the scoring in the 16th minute on a simple finish after San Jose keeper Jon Busch couldn’t corral a Robbie Findley driven shot. Busch spilled the rebound directly to Morales about 8 yards from goal, and he made no mistake about his finish.
The goal was Morales’ sixth in 12 career matches against San Jose.
Not long after, he notched his sixth career assist against San Jose as an unmarked Grabavoy easily finished a Morales cross. The ball was intended for Joao Plata — who was running away from the goal with a defender right on him — but the crafty striker jumped over the ball instead, and it rolled straight to a wide-open Grabavoy.
“Plays like that for me are unbelievable 'cause they’re super unselfish. He could’ve tried to strike that with a guy on him,” said Grabavoy.
The third goal came five minutes later as Findley collected a Plata deflected cross and curled it around Busch from about 16 yards out.
Kreis said it was refreshing to see his players finish some chances.
“Tonight for me was the first time that I can remember that we finished just about every one of our chances. The chances that should’ve been finished were finished,” said Kreis.
Real Salt Lake’s attacking prowess wasn’t nearly as strong in the second half, but it didn’t matter. The deficit was much too insurmountable for San Jose, and Nick Rimando made sure of that with several spectacular saves as RSL earned just its fourth shutout of the season.
“We were fortunate that Rimando was so on his game otherwise I think they score at least one, maybe two goals,” said Kreis.
The win was RSL’s second against San Jose this season, and certainly a satisfying one after getting swept in three matches last year.
RSL returns to action next Saturday when it continues a six-game homestand against the L.A. Galaxy.
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