Sandy • If there was a time for Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke to swing for the fences, Thursday’s game against the New England Revolution was it.
He chose to sit defender Justen Glad for the first time in 50 games. He chose to start Nedum Onuoha and Luke Mulholland, who had played a combined three minutes this season (Nedum signed in September and Mulholland was recovering from back surgery).
Perhaps Petke had no choice but to make a mad shuffle of his lineup. After all, Kyle Beckerman and Sunday “Sunny” Stephen were both unavailable due to yellow card accumulation. And Albert Rusnák, Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino were all essentially game-time decisions because they returned from International duty on Wednesday.
His shift must have sparked something inside the team, as RSL erupted for a 4-1 win over the Revolution on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Four different RSL players scored a goal.
“I think we had a lot of guys that hadn’t gotten minutes that they wanted throughout the year, and this gave them the chance to prove themselves,” Corey Baird said. “I think that showed.”
The win lets RSL breathe easier as it fights to secure a playoff berth. RSL stays sixth in the Western Conference and holds off the L.A. Galaxy, who were just one point behind RSL going in to Thursday.
In the end, RSL didn’t need its three missing starters, who were all available as substitutes. The team scored three goals in the first half hour and never looked back.
Petke credited Baird, Sebastián Saucedo and Luis Silva for playing both sides of the ball. He added that as long as they played the right way, he was not going to replace them.
“These guys earned the right to start this game (due to) the work they’ve done over the last seven days,” Petke said of Baird, Saucedo and Silva.
Nick Besler started the scoring in the fourth minute on a pass from Baird, who had taken a pass from Damir Kreilach up the right side of the field and crossed into the box to Besler for the goal and 1-0 lead.
“It was so much important," Kreilach said of the goal. “We want to open the game with an early goal and we did it. The goal changed the game.”
Kreilach went from hockey assist to actual assist 10 minutes later when he headed a pass backward to Sebastian Saucedo, who rocketed a strike into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Mulholland slid into a pass to Baird, who patiently waited for the right moment to strike. When he did, the ball rolled past Revolution keeper Brad Knighton for a 3-0 lead in the 29th minute.
Revolution coach Brad Friedel told NBC Sports Boston at halftime that his team’s effort was “pathetic” and “unacceptable.”
“They’re playing with a lot of their second team, and it is a simple case of getting outworked,” Friedel said. “They don’t outplay you. They’re hitting long balls and they run after them. That’s what we’re not competing with.”
RSL started the second half much like it opened the game: with a goal. Onuoha headed a corner kick right in front of the goal, where Kreilach was there to finish it. Initially the goal was overturned, but a video review ruled in RSL’s favor, giving it a 4-0 lead in the 50th minute.