SANDY — Real Salt Lake has a pulse in the MLS playoff race once again.
The need for a road victory still looms on the horizon, but that was the last thing on the team's mind in Wednesday's 4-0 thrashing of Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The match was by no means a mathematical must-win, but it was a realistic must-win against a team RSL's desperately chasing in the Western Conference standings.
"They answered the call with flying colors," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
RSL is now tied with Toronto, New England and Colorado for the final two playoff spots heading into the home stretch, but each of those teams has played fewer games. It's why winning Wednesday was of the utmost importance, particularly after last weekend's terrible performance in a 3-1 loss at New England.
"I thought we played well defensively; we rebounded from a poor performance against New England, and that's very positive to see from us," said defender Nat Borchers.
RSL was an attacking-minded team from the opening whistle against one of the league's best defenses, ultimately outshooting Chivas 16-6. After several near misses, Pablo Campos finally put away one of those chances just before halftime by heading in a Fabian Espindola cross for his first career Salt Lake goal.
"Really timely goal for us. We had been the better team for the first half and it's another one of those occasions if you don't get the goal, you don't reward yourself for the hard work the pressure starts to mount," said Kreis.
A half hour later the onslaught was on, all at the expense of ex-RSL player Carey Talley.
With most of his Chivas teammates pushing forward in the second half, Talley got burned on three occasions in the final 15 minutes, once by Espindola and twice by Robbie Findley.
Espindola tallied the all-important insurance goal on a wicked strike in the 75th minute, and second-half substitute Findley added a pair of goals in the final five minutes.
Findley's two goals upped his season total to 10, moving him into a second-place tie with Columbus' Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Los Angeles' Landon Donovan and Seattle's Fredy Montero.
Andy Williams, who started in place of the injured Javier Morales, believes possession was the key throughout the 90 minutes.
"We controlled the game basically … we just kept (the ball) a lot," said Williams.
The match was eerily similar to RSL's 6-0 thumping of New England back on April 25, when most of the goals came in the final 15 minutes. Kreis had a glowing review for his team after the New England win, but Wednesday he was much more reserved.
"Big, big win. I don't know about relief because Saturday night is another match and we don't have too much time to dwell on this one. We need to move forward and figure out how to get points on the road," said Kreis, whose team now stands at 8-9-6 with seven games remaining.
Borchers believes a focused defensive effort, unlike the one in New England, is key against struggling Kansas City this Saturday in the final game of busy three-game stretch in seven days.
"I think we've had so many of these kinds of wins where we've taken care of things emphatically, but I think we really have to take this win with a grain of salt, it's not longer time to give away points on the road; it's no longer time to take road games off," he said.
RSL's 7-1-4 home record is tied for second best in MLS, but its 1-8-2 road record is one of the worst.