Columbus, Ohio » Real Salt Lake simply ran out of minutes.
There weren't enough at the end of the match to catch Columbus while it was trying to protect a lead or for normal starters Javier Morales and Robbie Findley, who shook off injuries to come off the bench, to provide the sparks for a moribund offense.
The Crew got a 38th-minute penalty kick from Guillermo Barros Schelotto -- its only shot on goal -- to defeat RSL 1-0 before 14,322 soggy fans in Crew Stadium on Saturday in a matchup of the past two league champions.
Barros Schelotto's goal helped Columbus (2-0-1) avenge its ouster in last year's Eastern Conference semifinal series that helped RSL claim its first MLS Cup.
Real Salt Lake was stuck on four shots (one on goal) for 34 minutes until an easy strike to Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer in the 76th minute.
By that time Morales (abductor strain) and Findley (hip strain) had been on the field 14 minutes and were just starting to get the offense to hum.
"With Robbie's pace to get in behind he really stretched them," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "He created a couple of hot chances just by his working hard to pester defenders.
"Javier, he's a difference-maker. He has special abilities and we need him on the field to succeed."
Over the final 14 minutes plus stoppage time, Real Salt Lake (1-3-1) had six shots and Hesmer had to come up big twice time.
He preserved the lead in the 82nd minute with a diving stop after Nelson Gonzalez drove a free kick from 22 yards that was earmarked for the upper left corner. On the ensuing play, Will Johnson was offside to negate his goal.
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman wasn't so sure.
"I know their goalie said it was a goal so that's strange," he said.
Then in the 84th, Morales' 25-yard strike barely missed the mark before Hesmer came back to make a brilliant kick save after Findley broke free in the 88th minute
"It makes a difference when you have Robbie and Javie in there," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "You can tell how comfortable we are. The balls were kept on the ground.
"If we get 90, 70 [minutes] with these guys we're a different team."
That wasn't possible, said Kreis.
"It was a discussion through yesterday that 30 minutes was about all we could ask," of Morales and Findley, he said. "Both of them felt confident to play 30 minutes but not any longer."
On the penalty call, the foul went against defender Robbie Russell as he let Robbie Rogers get a step on him to receive a leading pass from Steven Lenhart on the left side. Russell made contact with Rogers and the midfielder went down.
RSL has three losses and since opening the season with a win. It is 1-3 on the road but heads home to play Toronto FC on May 1 to start a three-game stretch in Rio Tinto Stadium.
"We're in a difficult stretch. This is probably a second game this year that decisions are going against us," Kreis said. "I'm hoping it will shake out over the course of the season."
» RSL stages a furious rally at the end, but comes up short against the Crew.
» RSL's Javier Morales and Robbie Findley are limited to just 30 minutes each by injuries.
» The Crew score on a 38th-minute penalty kick by Guillermo Barros Schelotto -- their only shot on goal for the game.