We didn’t do much differently tonight than we have the past month, month and a half. The only difference was we converted our chances. —RSL coach Mike Petke
SANDY — The math got slightly less complicated for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night as it continues to fight for a Western Conference playoff berth.
First and foremost, eighth-place RSL beat seventh-place San Jose 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, a massive result in what was undoubtedly a must-win situation for the home side.
Simultaneously in the Pacific Northwest, another match unfolded relatively favorably for RSL as sixth-place Vancouver only picked up a point against Seattle at home. The combination of results means that RSL is now just three points behind Vancouver for the last playoff spot.
The fact Vancouver has played three fewer matches complicates the math a bit for Real Salt Lake, but its 4-1-3 record over the past two months has at least moved the club into striking distance — which seemed impossible two months ago.
Coach Mike Petke’s team has another very important home match this Saturday against rival Colorado, which is way out of the playoff conversation sitting in 10th place in the West.
RSL heads into that match beaming with confidence after dismantling a San Jose team that played the final 30 minutes with 10 men.
Not only did Luis Silva, Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Yura Movsisyan all find the back of the net, Real Salt Lake hit the post on three other occasions as it controlled the match throughout — both on level terms and with a man advantage.
“We didn’t do much differently tonight than we have the past month, month and a half,” set Petke. “The only difference was we converted our chances. We created so many opportunities, and we’ve been so fluid going forward, and tonight it fell to us and guys were lethal with the ball at their feet and going to goal.”
RSL was on the front foot early and went ahead in the 29th minute as Silva continued his great run of form.
After Danilo Acosta did well to win the ball at the other end to thwart a dangerous counter attack from San Jose, Rusnak quickly sprung Silva with a ball over the top. Silva took a couple of touches toward the keeper and then slipped a shot between the legs of San Jose keeper Andrew Tarbell for the 1-0 lead.
Silva has now scored in three straight games, the second RSL player to accomplish that feat. Yura Movsisyan scored three straight against Minnesota, Vancouver and Colorado back in early April.
Rusnak picked up his first of two assists on the goal, giving him 10 on the season.
“Albert’s the type of player that sees plays two, three seconds ahead of everybody else and that’s why he’s so valuable to us,” said Petke.
RSL appeared to double its advantage in the 50th minute through Joao Plata, but after the celebration, referee Silviu Petrescu decided to review the goal — the first video replay for RSL since it was implemented by the league in early August. Petrescu ultimately waived it off after determining that Silva fouled the keeper just prior to Plata’s goal.
More goals eventually came for Real Salt Lake, and they all came after San Jose defender Anibal Godoy was shown his second yellow card for putting his hands to the face of Rusnak in the 61st minute.
Seven minutes later Savarino successfully doubled the lead as he curled a shot around San Jose’s keeper into the upper corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Rusnak later stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 80th minute as he banged a Plata cross in off the right post — the opposite post that denied RSL on three other occasions.
In stoppage time, Movsisyan added a fourth goal against a noticeably frustrated San Jose squad.
“We really enjoyed it because that’s the type of game you want, especially at home to score four goals and to keep a clean sheet and to create so many chances. We could’ve scored six or seven goals easily,” said Rusnak.
Nick Rimando only had to make one save to earn his 100th career shutout in a Real Salt Lake uniform, in what was his 300th career start.