MLS Soccer Play-Offs: Real Salt Lake City defeat Columbus Crew
The Major League Soccer play-offs threw up another shock result as Real Salt Lake City stunned champions Columbus Crew with a 3-2 road victory earlier this week.
Leading up to the second game of the two-legged play-off, RSL had scored just nine goals on the road all season, while their hosts had notched only a single strike in the last five games. However, all that went out the window at the Crew Stadium as both trends were bucked in an open and entertaining clash.
Needing to overturn a one-goal deficit from the first leg, the Crew started the brighter of the two teams and duly went ahead on the 19th minute, albeit in slightly unusual circumstances. With Columbus winning a free-kick 35-yards out, dead-ball specialist Guillermo Barros Schelotto sent the ball sailing into the penalty area, where it missed everyone and bounced past a flat-footed Nick Rimando into the net.
There was nothing fortunate about Schelotto's second, however, as the player seized on a poor clearance by Salt Lake defender Robbie Russell before bending a left-footed shot just inside the right upright with Rimando well-beaten. With their lead now doubled, the Crew looked to be firmly in control of the game, but before the end of half-time, RSL hit back in style to tie the scores on aggregate.
After a beautiful exchange of passes, Argentian midfielder Javier Morales was released in the box and he tucked a neat shot under the arm of Crew 'keeper Will Hesmer to make it 2-1 on the night. Amazingly, the first-half action wasn't done there, however, and when Frankie Hejduk took down Fabian Espindola in the box, RSL forward Robbie Findley calmly tucked away the resulting penalty to make it 2-2.
With that goal giving them the lead in the series, Salt Lake already had one foot in the Eastern Conference finals when Andy Williams sealed matters with their third goal deep into the second half. The final score of 3-2 gave RSL a two-goal aggregate victory in the play-off, meaning that they will now face New England Revolution or Chicago Fire in the penultimate game of the season.