RSL Tops New England 4-1 At Home To Boost Playoff Hopes

Oct 19, 2018, 4:03 AM | Updated: 8:37 pm
Real Salt Lake midfielder Nick Besler...
Real Salt Lake midfielder Nick Besler (13) leaps up to head the ball as the New England defense closes in during the New England Revolution versus Real Salt Lake soccer match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake needed a win in their last home game of the season to keep their playoff hopes alive. They delivered in a dominating 4-1 win over the New England Revolution in front of 19,536 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Although a playoff spot was not yet secured, Real added 3 much-needed points in the Western Conference standings with the win. Sitting in the sixth and final playoff spot, Thursday’s win set up a critical season finale against fifth-seeded Portland on Sunday in Oregon.

The Timbers have 51 points to RSL’s 49, but Portland had two games remaining on their schedule – the home matchup with Salt Lake, and a visit to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, also fighting for a playoff berth.

Of the four Western Conference teams vying for a playoff position, including the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake was the only team with one game remaining on the schedule.

The win over New England went a long way to bolster their postseason position.

Red Hot First Half

Real got on the scoreboard in the fourth minute, when Nick Besler scored his first career MLS goal. Forward Corey Baird assisted on the play, as he crossed the ball into the box, putting RSL up 1-0.

Head coach Mike Petke credited Besler for getting his team off to the fast start.

“Any time you score on a goal like that from one end to the other, it sets the tone,” he said.

Just 10 minutes later, forward Sebastian Saucedo found the net, giving Real Salt Lake a 2-0 lead. It was Saucedo’s third goal of the season.

The ball was deflected by midfielder Damir Kreilach and bounced to Saucedo at the top of the box, who fired the ball into the back of the net.

Baird scored off his right foot in the 28th minute, putting RSL up 3-0.

At the break, Mike Petke said he was pleased with the way his team started in the first half, especially after their 4-1 loss in the last match on October 6 to Portland.

“The last game stung. It doesn’t indicate who we are,” Petke said. “It was important to have a response tonight, and the guys responded.”

New England was awarded a penalty kick in the 33rd minute as defender Nedum Onouha tripped up Revolution forward Teal Bunbury. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando guessed the left side and saved the penalty kick off of his right hand.

It was Onouha’s first RSL start after joining the team in September. He had previous stints with the Queens Park Rangers in the English Football League Championship, and Manchester City from the Premiere League.

RSL Added One More Second Half Goal

Sebastian Saucedo connected with Onouha on a corner kick, who set up a header from Kreilach in the 50th minute. It was his 12th goal of the season.

Real was initially called offside by the official, but after video replay, the call was changed, giving RSL a 4-0 advantage.

New England finally scored in the 69th minute off of a goal by defender Kelyn Rowe, cutting RSL’s lead to three.

Petke was pleased his team was able to hold the early momentum throughout the match.

“What won this game was our dedication, discipline and playing to the game plan,” Petke added.

Real Salt Lake Still In Playoff Hunt

With the win, RSL strengthened their position in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, four points ahead of the LA Galaxy, who still had two games remaining.

Real Salt Lake’s last game of the regular season was scheduled for Sunday afternoon against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Petke talked about the approach for the team with the short turnaround.

“The next two days are not about ‘on the field.’ It’s all about preparing them mentally,” he said. “I don’t think there needs to be any motivation. The players understand that we have a great opportunity ahead of us.”

Sunday’s game will begin at 3 p.m. and can be streamed on the KSL TV app.

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RSL Tops New England 4-1 At Home To Boost Playoff Hopes