Real Salt Lake (14-8-10, 52 points, West #3) clinched a seventh-straight playoff berth with a 2-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes (6-15-11, 29 points, West #8) on Saturday night in front of a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake MF Ned Grabavoy gave RSL the lead in the 24th minute, with a shot from outside the area that found the bottom right corner. The Claret-and-Cobalt doubled its lead four minutes later when MF Sebastian Velasquez connected with MF Luke Mulholland’s corner kick, finishing from close range to put RSL up 2-0 in the 28th minute. With the win, RSL now joins Seattle Sounders FC and LA Galaxy as Western Conference clubs that have officially qualified for the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Real Salt Lake started the match on the front foot, testing San Jose GK Jon Busch early in the fourth minute. The play started on the left side, with RSL FW Sebastian Jaime playing the ball off his chest into the path of RSL FW Robbie Findley. The fleet-footed forward made his way into the area and blasted a right-footed shot to the far corner that Busch was able to corral with a diving save.
The Claret-and-Cobalt had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in the ninth minute. RSL DF Tony Beltran started the play on the right flank, finding Velasquez atop the area. The Colombian played a great ball in behind San Jose’s back line for Jaime who found himself alone in on Busch. The San Jose ‘keeper came up with an excellent save, making himself big to block the shot and deflect it out for a corner kick.
The home side had another decent look in the 21st minute. Beltran was at the start of the action again, sending a low ball into the box that ended up slipping by Velasquez to Findley 15 yards out from goal. Findley was taken by surprise however, and sent his shot just wide of the net.
Real Salt Lake went on to take the lead in the 24th minute. Beltran started the play on the right flank with a cross into the box that San Jose headed back down into the area and was unable to clear. The ball rolled out to Grabavoy just outside the area, who fired a low swerving shot that made it through traffic into the right corner for the 1-0 lead.
RSL doubled its lead just four minutes later. The Claret-and-Cobalt earned a corner kick that Mulholland whipped to the far post. Velasquez was there with an acrobatic touch with his knee to finish from close range for his first-ever regular season goal.
San Jose had a pair of good looks in the second half in the 55th and 61st minutes. Quakes FW Adam Jahn got the ball inside the area and worked his way into space with a nifty turn and fired a shot that narrowly missed the near post. San Jose FW Yannick Djalo had the second chance after Quakes MF Tommy Thompson’s cross into the box fell to him at the far post, but the Guinea-Bissau native could not get a good enough touch to the ball and his attempt went wide of the net.
RSL almost scored its third goal of the night in the 83rd minute. RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman whipped a free kick to the far side of the 18 yard box that DF Carlos Salcedo was able to head on frame, but Busch was there to collect the effort.
The Claret-and-Cobalt saw a pair of chances in the last minute of play. RSL substitute MF Luis Gil won the ball on the break and sprinted to the touch line, where he played it back for Findley at the center of the box. San Jose DF Ty Harden was able to snuff out the chance though, getting a foot to the ball before Findley. RSL substitute FW Olmes Garcia had the second opportunity also on the break, flying down the left side and into the box where he blasted a shot on frame. The Colombian’s attempt went straight to Bush and the San Jose ‘keeper was able to keep the final score at 2-0.
RSL will return to MLS action next Friday, when it heads to Oregon to take on the Portland Timbers at Providence Park at 8:00 p.m. MT. The RSL-Portland contest will be nationally broadcast on NBCSN, and locally on ESPN 700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM.
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