for this game

Real Salt Lake eliminates Columbus

Nov 6, 2009 - 4:40 AM By BOB STEIN STATS MLS Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (STATS) - It wasn't always attractive, but it was effective and that's all that mattered to Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.

Javier Morales and Robbie Findley scored first-half goals and Real Salt Lake advanced to its second straight conference final with a 3-2 victory over the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew on Thursday night.

"The answer's always in the pudding," Kreis said. "This is the first time in a long time, the first time since I've been a coach here, that we've got any kind of result here. Or even played a good game."

The victory, combined with a 1-0 home win Saturday, gave Salt Lake a 4-2 aggregate win in the two-game series. After setting an MLS record with a 24-game home unbeaten streak, Columbus finished the season with three straight losses at home.

"If you look at the last three games ... it's not like we were outplayed by any teams," said Crew coach Robert Warzycha. "Obviously today was a game that we also dominated, but, you know, somehow we gave them some goals. ... Sometimes the better team doesn't win."

Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the reigning MLS MVP, gave the Crew a 1-0 lead with an improbable tally off a 56-yard free kick in the 19th minute. The ball bounced just outside the box and passed inches beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

"Nobody got a head on it, and it went through," Rimando said. "You really can't do anything unless someone clears it."

Schelotto scored again in the 35th minute. He intercepted a pass from Salt Lake defender Robbie Russell and redirected the ball to teammate Emmanuel Ekpo, who returned the pass. Schelotto wrong-footed defender Jamison Olave before curling a low, hard shot from the edge of the penalty area inside the right post.

"He was good," Kreis said of Schelotto, who was benched by Warzycha on Saturday. "He was unbelievable. ... Sometimes coaches make interesting decisions. (Warzycha's) decision to insert him tonight I think lit a little fire under Mr. Schelotto's rear end, and he was fantastic."

That gave the Crew a 2-1 cumulative lead, but it was short-lived. In the 37th minute, Morales scored an opportunistic goal following questionable defending in front of Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer.

Moments before the end of the first half, Crew captain Frankie Hejduk was whistled for hauling down Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola inside the penalty area. Findley drove a penalty kick into the left side of the net as Hesmer dove to the right.

"I think the response from the guys was amazing," Rimando said. "Earlier in the year, it wasn't like that, so I think we learned a lot. And 2-0 became 2-2 at halftime and gave us confidence in the second half."

Andy Williams scored in the 74th minute to give Salt Lake additional breathing room.

In the 85th minute, the Crew's Robbie Rogers sent a pass into the penalty area that second-half substitute Jason Garey headed toward the goal. Rimando made a leaping, fingertip save for one of his eight on the night.

In 2008, Salt Lake played in the Western Conference final, but will compete this year in the Eastern finals due to MLS playoff seedings.

Kreis said he hoped the victory would bring newfound respect for his club.

"It'll be interesting to see this week if all those people who were saying 'they've got no chance' are now starting to say 'they've got a chance,'" he said. "That'll be interesting."