Javier Morales and Robbie Findley scored first-half goals and Real Salt Lake advanced to its second straight conference final with a 3-2 victory over the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew on Thursday night.
The victory, combined with a 1-0 home win Saturday, gave Salt Lake a 4-2 aggregate win in the two-game series. After setting an MLS record with a 24-game home unbeaten streak, Columbus finished the season with three straight losses at home.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the reigning MLS MVP, gave the Crew a 1-0 lead with an improbable tally off a 56-yard free kick in the 19th minute. The ball bounced just outside the box and passed inches beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Schelotto scored again in the 35th minute. He intercepted a pass from Salt Lake defender Robbie Russell and redirected the ball to teammate Emmanuel Ekpo.
Ekpo returned the pass and Schelotto wrong-footed defender Jamison Olave before curling a low, hard shot from the edge of the penalty area inside the right post.
That gave the Crew a 2-1 cumulative lead, but it was short-lived. In the 37th minute, Morales scored an opportunistic goal following questionable defending in front of Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer.
Moments before the end of the first half, Crew captain Frankie Hejduk was whistled for hauling down Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola inside the penalty area. Findley drove a penalty kick into the left side of the net as Hesmer dove to the right.
Andy Williams scored in the 74th minute to Salt Lake additional breathing room.
In the 85th minute, the Crew's Robbie Rogers sent a pass into the penalty area that second-half substitute Jason Garey headed toward the goal. Rimando made a leaping, fingertip save for one of his eight on the night.
In 2008, Salt Lake played in the Western Conference final, but will compete this year in the Eastern finals due to MLS playoff seedings.
Story from: STATS LLC, http://www.stats.com