by TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake have done their part, beating Chivas 2-1 at home on Wednesday night. Joao Plata and Alvaro Saborio both had a goal each.
Now, RSL will play the waiting game.
With an outside chance at the Supporter’s Shield and playing against a decidedly atrocious Chivas USA side at home, Real Salt Lake should have come out buzzing, but it was the visitors who had the first big chance of the night.
Eric Avila got in behind RSL’s defense and sent a ball into the box to a wide-open Erick Torres who headed the ball at goal. Nick Rimando again showed why he is a leading candidate for goalkeeper of the year as he punched the ball away. It fell to Carlos Alvarez but his follow-up attempt was deflected out for the corner.
RSL generated a couple of solid chances throughout the first half but Chivas USA goalkeeper Tim Melia was up to the task, logging two key saves to keep the home crowd quiet.
“Give them credit”, midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “They had a lot going against them and not much to play for but jobs and stuff. To make it difficult for us, you know, credit to them. We had to kind of keep at it, keep grinding and we were able to get the goals that we needed.”
Kreis immediately substituted Javier Morales in to start the second half and the claret-and-cobalt looked like a completely different team.
“I think Javier did a great job tonight,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said. “He’s coming off an injury. He needed some rest and he got that. He came back and was sharp. He created a lot of chances for us tonight and that was really the difference in the game.”
RSL didn’t have to wait long to strike in the second half.
In the 48th minute, Morales received the ball at the top of the box and played it into Joao Plata, who attempted to send a pass through but was stopped when Chivas USA defender Mario de Luna put his arm out. Referee Silviu Petrescu pointed to the spot and Alvaro Saborio stepped up.
The Costa Rican calmly approached the ball, got Melia to guess wrong, and blasted the ball into the back of the net.
Just minutes later, in the 52nd minute, Plata doubled the advantage after his initial pass to Morales bounced right back to him, the Ecuadorian decided to have a go himself. He curled a shot from distance, beating Melia to make it 2-0.
Chivas USA made things interesting in the 77th minute when they were able to pull a goal back.
Carlo Chueca lofted a beautiful pass over the top of RSL’s defense, beating the offside trap and finding Julio Morales who was all alone in front of Rimando. The substitute poked the ball past the RSL goalkeeper and into the net to slice the lead in half.
Despite having nothing to play for, Chivas USA played hard to finish out the match and certainly made more than a few of the 20,447 in attendance nervous.
In the end, however, RSL held strong and put the pressure on the rest of the contenders as they wait to see if they will win their first hardware since 2009.
“We gave away the cheap goal, which I think, in the end, may be a good thing,” Kreis said. “It may be a good thing that we have to spend the last 15 minutes really struggling and grinding out a result because that’s exactly what it’s going to take in the playoffs.”
Now ball is in the collective courts of the Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City. RSL did what they could and will have to wait and see if a Supporter’s Shield is in their future. At the very least, RSL has secured the number two seed in the west, avoiding a wildcard matchup and buying themselves some valuable rest.