Four minutes into the second half, Chivas midfielder Edgar Mejia was whistled for a handball in the box. RSL's Alvaro Saborio stepped up and drilled the ball to the right side of the net as Chivas goalkeeper Tim Melia dove to the left, giving the home team a lead it would never relinquish.
“It leaves a feeling that I’m glad we have a week and a half between now and our next game," said head coach Jason Kreis. "I’m glad that we’re going to have an entire week to know who our opponent is, where we’re going to play that match because we’re going to work pretty hard. We’re going to – again – focus on ourselves, fine tuning some things because tonight I just didn’t think we handled that game the right way. So I have to look at it and say I’m really thankful with the result, I am very thankful for the guys that they came in for 20 or 30 minutes in the second half and gave the right energy."
Just three minutes later, Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata scored what proved to be the winning goal when teammate Javier Morales was dispossessed of the ball. It fell in front of Plata, who banged in an unassisted goal from 20 yards out, catching Melia flat-footed.
Real Salt Lake squandered chance after chance over the next 15 minutes, only to see Chivas' Julio Morales pull his team within a goal the 77th minute when he slipped past defender Tony Beltran and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando. That left the home team to fend off several good Chivas chances in the last 16 minutes of play to preserve the win.
The second-half scoring followed a first half in which neither team looked overly dangerous. Chivas had four shots on goal, one on target, but never seriously threatened.
And Real continued to look like a team that has forgotten how to score. Despite 63 percent of the possession and seven shots on goal, two on target, Salt Lake had little more than half-chances off free kicks that no one could finish. And the best chances were sent directly into the hands of Melia.
It was a Chivas team that looked pretty much completely unfamiliar to RSL. The Goats started just two players who were in the 11 when the two teams last met in May; only one other was even in the 18.
The victory assured Real Salt Lake (16-10-8, 56 points) of finishing no worse than second in the Western Conference, and vaulted the Claret-and-Cobalt past Portland into first place in the conference and into a tie with New York at the top of the Supporters' Shield table — at least temporarily. Salt Lake needs Portland to lose to or tie to win the conference; to win the shield, Kansas City must also either lose or tie and New York must lose.
“I knew we’d definitely be fighting for a playoff spot," said captain Kyle Beckerman. "To be here, I guess you don’t really see that. All the hard work that everybody has been putting in, guys are buying into what we’ve got going on. We’ll keep a close eye on things for a couple of days, then get some momentum going for the playoffs.”