SANDY — This time around Real Salt Lake built a lead that was impossible to squander.
After surrendering a 90th minute goal in each of its previous two home openers and settling for draws, RSL made amends Thursday in one of the most convincing wins in franchise history with a 4-1 thrashing of Columbus.
Robbie Findley's hat trick, the first in team history, also helped RSL redeem itself from a disappointing season-opening loss last weekend at the expansion Seattle Sounders.
"Three points was great for us, but on the other hand it doesn't get us in the playoffs yet, and if we'd lost or tied tonight it wouldn't have kept us out of it. It was just a good start," said RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "It got us off and running, and hopefully we can build off of it."
Findley scored his goals in minutes 2, 29 and 62, with Kyle Beckerman tacking on an additional insurance goal in the 67th minute as RSL improved to 1-1-0 this season in front of 11,806 fans on a chilly night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The defending MLS Cup champion Crew, meanwhile, remain winless at 0-1-2 and outside of a 20-minute stretch in the first half didn't play particularly well.
It might've been a different outcome had Columbus keeper Will Hesmer not gifted Real Salt Lake a pair of goals in the opening half-hour, but RSL wasn't complaining one bit.
Less than a week after 90 minutes of soccer produced frustration and zero goals in Seattle, it took RSL just two minutes to find the back of the net against Columbus.
Following a powerfully driven free kick by Will Johnson, Findley was there to pounce on the clumsy rebound, giving RSL the 1-0 lead. Despite the sloppy rebound, it would get much, much worse for Columbus keeper Will Hesmer.
Before it did though, Columbus settled down and enjoyed the better of it for nearly 15 minutes.
The Crew finally capitalized on the bulk of the possession in the 22nd minute when Jason Garey volleyed in a free kick from Gino Padula. The bending ball glanced off a pair of bodies, including Clint Mathis, before slipping past RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who seemed surprised the defenders in front of him didn't clear it. The ball fell directly to Garey, who punished RSL for their confusion.
That breakdown paled in comparison to what happened to Hesmer in the 29th minute. On what should've been a very simple over-the-top clearance, Hesmer kicked the ball straight on the ground to Robbie Findley at the top of the box. The unmarked Findley didn't hesitate and quickly dribbled around the charging Hesmer, tapping in his second goal of the game for the 2-1 lead.
"That goal uplifted us again and gave us confidence to go in and play and not worry, and have that goal cushion going into the half," said Mathis.
RSL coach Jason Kreis was particularly pleased with the immediate response of his team after the Crew leveled the score at 1-1.
"It shows the kind of response that we're starting to see at Real Salt Lake. We have had a history of wanting to fold up shop when something goes wrong, but now we've developed a little bit of a history of when bad things happen to us we react in a very positive way," said Kreis.
Findley increased the lead to 3-1 by heading in a Yura Movsisyan cross, and Beckerman capped the scoring by heading in a Mathis corner kick.
Real Salt Lake outshot Columbus 17-8 and was unlucky not to add a few more goals, particularly Movsisyan who missed a couple of outstanding opportunities in the box.
RSL returns to action next Saturday when it hosts D.C. United at 4 p.m.
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