After settling for just one point in two road matches, Supporters’ Shield leaders Real Salt Lake returned to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night with something to prove.
With a convincing 4-0 win over the Columbus Crew, RSL delivered all the proof needed.
Kyle Beckerman scored twice and youngsters Devon Sandoval and Luis Gil netted a goal apiece as RSL increased their lead in the Shield race to four points over Montreal and their Western Conference advantage over second-place LA Galaxy to five points.
Columbus, coming off two straight wins, had no answer for RSL’s relentless attack, being pushed back constantly into their own box. While being outshot 10-1 in the first half, the Crew managed to hold Salt Lake scoreless for the first 45 minutes.
Then the floodgates opened.
In the dying moments of first-half stoppage time, Columbus’ Chad Marshall was whistled for a hand ball 10 yards outside the Crew box. Javier Morales’ free kick went directly at the wall, but deflected through and off of Beckerman into the net. Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson was wrong-footed and could only watch the ball go past after the deflection.
Lampson had more bad luck early in the second half, when he was briefly hobbled when taking a saved shot from RSL forward Olmes Garcia off the leg. Noticeably limping, Lampson was slow to react to a Garcia cross across the box moments later, and Sandoval easily slotted home.
Real Salt Lake would coast from there, getting a goal in the 82nd minute when Gil showed some slick footwork after an equally slick Ned Grabavoy pass, badly fooling Crew defender Josh Williams and tucking a shot past Lampson. Beckerman capped off his bookend brace in the 89th minute with a one-time finish from 12 yards out.
Columbus’ co-leading scorer and captain Federico Higuain will miss the Crew’s next match after picking up two yellow cards in the game. Higuain was ejected on his second yellow of the night during second-half stoppage time.
Next up for RSL is a home match against the Portland Timbers on August 30. Columbus, who remain on 29 points, seven out of the final playoff spot in the East, return home on August 31 to face the Seattle Sounders.