Sandy • When Javier Morales looked up and saw a streaking Joao Plata, the veteran midfielder was hoping the minuscule playmaker could make a play on the ball.
He didn’t, but he did.
The ball, curving directly toward Plata’s feet, instead went right through him when he saw Ned Grabavoy unmarked. Rather than making an awkward strike on the ball, Plata let it roll right through his legs to his teammate whose left-footed rocket to the far post sent off an explosion of applause.
It was one of many highlights of Real Salt Lake’s dominating 3-0 win over Western Conference rival San Jose at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night.
“Plays like that, for me, are unbelievable because it’s super unselfish,” Grabavoy said.
It was that kind of night at Rio Tinto.
The ball was shared. Wave after wave of attack threatened and broke down the Earthquake formation and, after talking about pouring it on when the opportunity presents itself, Real Salt Lake took care of it.
Real Salt Lake first hit the score sheet in the 16th minute when forward Robbie Findley created some space at the top of the box and fired a shot that was deflected by San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
The ball spilled to the center of the box where Javier Morales was there to calmly poke the ball into the back of the net.
“We should improve every game,” said Morales, who finished with a goal and an assist. “I think right now we’re playing good soccer, so we have to keep going forward.”
Grabavoy’s goal, the second in a first-half flurry, was an example of developing chemistry of a deep team.
And Findley’s 38th-minute bender that snuck into the far post was the exclamation mark on Real Salt Lake’s best offensive half of the season.
“Chances that should have been finished were finished,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
While RSL preferred to keep the foot firmly down on the pedal in the second half, the Earthquakes, as Grabavoy explained, switched formations and began to press more and, thanks to a few key stops by goalkeeper Nick Rimando, a clean sheet was preserved.
“Shutouts are important for this team,” Grabavoy said. “We need to get back to that.”
The win, Real Salt Lake’s fourth in its last six matches, catapulted the team into second place in the Western Conference standings as RSL now holds a two-point lead over the Portland Timbers.
And now, the goals that were missing early in the season are starting to come.
“We don’t have to finish them all every single game,” Kreis said. “We’ll hope to save those for the end of the season.”
RSL 3, Earthquakes 0
R Salt Lake scores three first-half goals and holds on for the win.
• Midfielder Javier Morales notches a goal and an assist for RSL.