Sandy » Don't lower the coffin just yet.
With its tenuous playoff hopes almost certainly hanging in the balance, Real Salt Lake bounced back from its worst game of the season in promising fashion Wednesday night, with newly acquired Pablo Campos igniting a landslide 4-0 victory over Chivas USA in front of 14,747 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"They answered the call with flying colors," coach Jason Kreis said.
Campos bounced home a header in the 43rd minute of his first start since joining the club in a trade last month, as Kreis followed through on his threat to juggle the line-up after RSL's lethargic loss at New England last weekend.
But that was only the start.
Forward Fabian Espindola -- whose perfect cross Campos knocked past Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton -- added a left-footed rocket in the 75th minute, before forward Robbie Findley scored twice in the final five minutes. Having come on as a substitute, Findley turned Chivas' Carey Talley inside out with sharp cutbacks after blazing runs both times, and finally enjoyed a friendly bounce off the post on his second strike.
"I saw it going straight to the post," Findley said with a smile, "and I was like, 'Please go in. Please?' "
And all of the sudden, the horizon looks so much brighter.
Rather than being all but eliminated from the Major League Soccer playoff hunt, the team can harbor renewed hope of overcoming its 1-8-2 road record and winning at Kansas City on Saturday. That would give it the six points it felt it needed from its three games this week, and ensure a dramatic final six games.
But in contrast to the unrestrained joy they showed after a 6-0 victory over New England early in the season -- which led to overconfidence and a seven-game winless streak -- both coaches and players were careful not to ignore the reality of their situation.
At 8-9-6 with 30 points, the team still believes it needs 13 points from its last seven games (only three of which are at home) to reach the postseason again.
"It's a very important three points," Espindola said, "but we have to win on the road, because it's not enough here."
Three regular starters -- Findley and fellow forward Clint Mathis, along with defender Robbie Russell -- were relegated to start on the bench after the 3-1 loss at New England, with forward Rachid El Khalifi joining Campos up top and defender Jamison Olave returning from suspension.
Midfielder Andy Williams made his first start since July 3, too, with regular starter Javier Morales sidelined with a groin injury.
"He's another player who deserved and earned his opportunity," Kreis said.
Together, they showed much more energy and passion than the team displayed against the Revs, generally controlling the play and ultimately making Chivas look like the side that recently scored but one goal during a five-game losing streak -- and not the one that had won two straight.
"We looked a lot more comfortable on the ball, all around the field," Findley said. "We played it well in the midfield, attacking when we should have, and pressured the ball. It was minor details in the last game that we needed to fix, and we were able to fix them."
The Goats fell to 10-8-3, with 33 points, while RSL tried not to celebrate too much yet.
"We need to move forward and figure out how to get points on the road," Kreis said.
In short » Real Salt Lake avenges its poorest game of the season with a crushing 4-0 victory over Chivas USA.
Key stat » RSL is 7-1-4 at home, with a league-best plus-18 goal differential.