SANDY, Utah (AP) — Real Salt Lake gave a perfect lesson on how to dominate an opponent on both sides of the ball.
For 90 minutes, Salt Lake combined aggressive offense and relentless defense to limit shots, control possession and set up easy scoring chances.
Kyle Beckerman scored two goals, while rookie forward Devon Sandoval and Luis Gil added one apiece, to lead Salt Lake to a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.
“This, for me, is the most complete match we’ve played the entire season,” Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said.
The win kept Salt Lake (13-8-6) atop the MLS standings. Gil’s goal was Salt Lake’s 47th of the season, breaking the previous franchise record of 46 set in 2012. Beckerman gave the team No. 48 right before the end of the second half.
Columbus (8-12-5) snapped a two-game winning streak, denying Crew coach Robert Warzycha his 71st career win with the team and becoming the club’s all-time leader in coaching victories.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” Warzycha said. “They were first to the ball — especially in the first half. Even though they only scored one goal, they were much sharper.”
Much of Salt Lake’s scoring frenzy came about because the team practically refused to let Columbus touch the ball for long stretches.
Salt Lake controlled possession for 65 percent of the time through both halves. It allowed the Crew just one shot before halftime and limited them to four total shots. Salt Lake, on the other hand, had 17 total shots and put seven on goal.
“Our best defense is when we have the ball,” Beckerman said. “If we’re possessing it well and we’re creating chances and we’re getting corner kicks and we’re keeping them pinned in, then it makes our defense a little bit easier.”
Still, Salt Lake had little to show for its efforts until the waning moments before halftime. The Crew defense clamped down and initially made it difficult for Salt Lake to finish any scoring chances.
Columbus had a good scoring chance on its lone first-half shot in the 37th minute when Federico Higuain sent in a right footer on an angle toward the right post. Nick Rimando intercepted the ball at the post to keep the Crew from breaking the scoreless tie.
Everything changed in the final minute of the half with Beckerman’s deflected goal, which ended a 230-minute stretch for Columbus without giving up any goals.
Javier Morales set things in motion when he bounced a free kick off Will Trapp on the right end of the Crew’s four-man defensive wall. The ball then ricocheted off Beckerman’s foot behind the wall and trickled inside the right post to make it 1-0.
“It really took a lot of steam out of them to get that goal right before half,” Beckerman said. “A lot of teams will come in here and are just going to sit in and try to get 0-0 into halftime and then see if they can sneak something in (later). So to get that was big for us.”
Salt Lake added to its advantage early in the second half as Sandoval made it 2-0 in the 51st minute when he flicked a cross from Garcia to him inside the 6-yard box inside the left post.
Columbus nearly cut into the lead in the 77th when a throw-in from Josh Williams bounced inside the 6-yard box to Ryan Finley. Finley headed the ball toward the right post, but it went just wide.
Gil added an insurance goal in the 83rd. Ned Grabavoy flicked a short through ball ahead to him deep in the box. Gil sidestepped a defender and buried the ball down the center.
Beckerman capped the scoring in the 89th when he threaded the ball inside the left post.
“They proved tonight why they are in first place,” Crew defender Josh Williams said. “They’re really good on the ball possession wise. We just couldn’t keep track of them.”
Higuain was sent off with a red card in the 90th and will be suspended for the Crew’s match at Seattle next weekend.