CARSON, Calif. The results weren't really there to justify the confidence, but Real Salt Lake was extremely upbeat nonetheless.
Despite a brutal franchise record at the Home Depot Center and zero road wins this year, there was optimism that Saturday was finally the night for the breakthrough. The hunches weren't foolishly naive.
RSL used a first-half goal from Robbie Findley and made it stand up amid heaps of pressure in the second half for a rare 1-0 victory over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.
"I feel like it's been a long time coming, and it was just a matter of time. I guess I believed a little bit more than everybody else," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Salt Lake improved to 4-5-3 with the win, and its 15 points are good enough for a third-place tie in the Western Conference with Colorado. Chivas USA remains a point behind in fourth place. The L.A. Galaxy lead the West with 20 points after their convincing 3-0 win over San Jose Saturday night.
In the victory, Salt Lake earned its second straight shutout, its first win on the road this season and its first win at Chivas USA in franchise history.
"All everyone ever talks about is we can't win on the road, I think people take us a little more serious now," said defender Nat Borchers.
Even though RSL lost at Chivas 3-1 in the second week of the season, the players believe it was a misleading result. It had several opportunities to tie the game at 2-2, but Alecko Eskandarian eventually sealed the final score with a 90th-minute breakaway.
Adding to the team's confidence was a two-game unbeaten streak both games at home and knowing it played well in its last away match at FC Dallas three weeks ago, before tiring out in the final 10 minutes in the Texas heat.
Coming out in a 4-5-1 formation had a lot to do with the solid defensive performance.
"I think it caused them some problems, they weren't sure what to do with it. It made us difficult to break down, really limited the space in the midfield for them," said Kreis.
The decisive moment came in the 33rd minute as Findley put RSL ahead 1-0 on a great through ball from Kyle Beckerman for his third goal of the season.
Findley, who's been playing really well the past two weeks, easily beat former Real teammate Carey Talley to the ball and took one touch around rookie keeper Dan Kennedy before burying it into the vacated net.
Javier Morales was credited with the second assist on the sequence, his league-leading seventh assist.
The 1-0 first half lead was just the second time all year Real Salt Lake scored first on the road. The previous occasion came on May 24 when Fabian Espindola's 69th minute tally put Real in front 1-0 at Dallas. His team proceeded to surrender two goals in the final minutes to lose that match 2-1.
After a fairly even first half, Chivas came out poised for the early equalizer. In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, it produced two dangerous crosses into the box and substitute Justin Braun missed a golden opportunity from eight yards out with Nick Rimando standing off his line.
It got worse for the Salt Lake City native Braun. He booted a breakaway chance right into the hands of Rimando in the 63rd minute, and RSL defender Tony Beltran toe-poked the ball away from Braun in the 72nd minute to spoil another opportunity.
The defense hung on the rest of the way to earn the much-needed shutout.
"It's what you need to do if you're going to have a chance on the road, we got a little lucky on a couple plays, but I think everyone defended well tonight," said Borchers. "There were so many chances we could've given up and given them scoring opportunities."Real is back in action at home this Wednesday against San Jose. It opens a stretch of four of five games at Rice-Eccles Stadium for RSL.
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