SANDY, Utah (AP) — Javier Morales scored a goal and assisted another to fuel a first-half outburst that lifted Real Salt Lake to a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.
Robbie Findley and Ned Grabavoy each chipped in first-half goals for RSL (7-5-3), which beat the Earthquakes (3-6-6) for the second straight time this season and extended their winless streak to four games.
Morales has 12 goals and assists during his MLS career against the Earthquakes. He assumed his familiar role as San Jose’s tormentor right away.
“We should improve every game,” Morales said. “Right now we’re playing our good soccer, so we’ll have to keep going forward.”
Morales nearly scored in the 13th minute when he blasted a free kick toward the left post. Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch narrowly prevented the goal by tipping the ball over the crossbar. Morales took a corner kick moments later, but San Jose defended it successfully.
Morales broke through in the 16th minute. Robbie Findley set things in motion when he attempted to curl a shot past Busch from the left flank. Busch blocked the shot and the ball bounced out to Morales in the center of the box. He latched on the ball quickly and fired it down the middle to give Salt Lake a 1-0 lead.
RSL coach Jason Kreis praised the energy of Morales and other veterans, who went 120 minutes only a few nights earlier.
“Those players just bring a sense of calm and make the players around them feel better and more secure,” Kreis said. “It’s an organizational thing. It’s a leadership thing. It’s a communication thing. Those guys are integral to the successes that we’ve had.”
Grabavoy made it a two-goal lead in the 33rd minute after smashing home a cross from Morales. Joao Plata faked out San Jose defenders by advancing toward the cross and then letting it go past, allowing Grabavoy to get off a clean shot down the center of the box.
The entire midfield caught San Jose off guard with their energy and effort. For Kreis, their solid play over the past six games has aligned with his vision of what he wanted to see from those players.
“Our midfielders have shown a real commitment to be involved in attacking plays, to get themselves into dangerous spots and to even end up in the box,” Kreis said.
Findley joined in the action, scoring in the 38th minute. He collected a loose ball on the left side of the box and blasted it inside the right post.
“It always feels good to score a goal,” Findley said “The defender had a poor clearance. He came straight to me. I had my mind set when it was on its way to me. I took a touch and hit it.”
San Jose offered little resistance in keeping RSL from running away with the game. The Earthquakes created zero shots before halftime. Salt Lake had six shots on goal alone and totaled 12 shots going into the locker room.
“It was terrible,” Busch said. “Horrible. They beat us in every facet of the game from the beginning of the game.”
The Earthquakes did not create their first shot on goal until the 58th minute, when Martin Chavez sent a left footer toward the right post that was saved by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
San Jose attacked often in the latter part of the second half. But the Earthquakes could not get any shots past Rimando’s outstretched hands.
“We got what we deserved from the match,” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. “Really poor defensive effort in the first half. One goal down is bad enough, but to go down three in the first half is not good.”