SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake didn’t call it a must-win game, but they played like it was.
Nick Besler, Sebastian Saucedo and Corey Baird all scored goals in the first 30 minutes of the game, and Real Salt Lake blew away the New England Revolution in their home finale Thursday night, 4-1.
With the three points, Real Salt Lake moves four points ahead of the L.A. Galaxy for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference headed into their season finale Sunday at Portland.
The Galaxy have a game in hand, but if RSL beats the Timbers, they will clinch a playoff spot.
“It was huge,” Baird said of the victory. “The week and a half between the games gave us some time to get away and think about the game, think about what we did wrong and watch the video on that. Everyone knew if we don’t respond the season is over. Everyone knew to get the job done and do well tonight.”
Playing without starters Kyle Beckerman and Sunny because of yellow card suspensions, and without Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino, who had just returned from international duty, head coach Mike Petke was forced to use an unusual lineup with six changes from their last game. But it worked.
“I’m sure that the lineup raised a couple of eyebrows with some of the selection,” Petke said. “I’m not surprised at all. We are a team and even though some guys never play in games together, we training together everyday, we see each other every day, we even eat lunch together so no matter who comes into the line up I don’t think chemistry matters on who plays. We do a good job of getting people in. This is my first year so integrating with the team, feels like we’ve been playing together for years. I give the credit to the coaching staff and the veterans to get people into the team.”
Besler relieved some early tension in th game early his first career goal in the 3rd minute to give RSL a 1-0 lead.
“Anytime you score early like that on a great transition goal from one end to another it sets a tone,” Petke said.
Sebastian Saucedo scored ten minutes later, rifling a blast form 17-yards out to make it 2-0 Real Salt Lake
RSL wasn’t done as Baird made it 3-0 in the 29th minute, calmly slotting home a low shot into the far side-netting for his eighth goal of the season.
In perhaps the biggest play of the first half, goalkeeper Nick Rimando parried away a penalty kick attempt by Teal Bunbury’s in the 35th minute to keep the score 3-0 at the half.
Damir Kreilach added his team-leading 12th goal of the season in the 50th minute to put the game completely out of reach.
“Our energy and our work from the beginning was excellent,” Kreilach said. “We put pressure on the New England players and in the end, we created so much opportunities and we scored goals. If you’re leading you have self-confidence and we used it, so it was excellent.”
Rimando made five saves on six shots, while Real Salt Lake put eight shots on frame against New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
Real Salt Lake improves to 14-12-7 (49 points) on the year, four points ahead of the LA Galaxy (12-11-9). While the Galaxy finish the season with games at Minnesota and home against Houston, RSL’s season finale is Sunday at Portland.
If RSL and LA end in a tie both with 49 points, Real Salt Lake would win the tiebreaker based on total wins. That means the Galaxy must in its final two games to have a shot at the playoffs.