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Sandy • Kyle Beckerman's first goal was luck.
His second, however, left no room for doubt.
The Real Salt Lake captain's brace fueled a 4-0 stomping of the Columbus Crew, a day after head coach Jason Kreis said he challenged his team which has seen too many seesaw efforts in a stretch of six league matches with only one victory to put together a complete performance.
"I felt like tonight was the most complete performance we've had for this year and it comes at the right time because we're entering the most critical stretch here," Kreis said. "We have a lot to play for, and a lot to win in front of us. We needed a performance to really put some confidence behind our group, and I think that was exactly what we got."
Playing a third match in eight days, Kreis made six changes to a lineup that pulled out a 3-3 draw in Portland on Wednesday. The freshness was apparent, as RSL outplayed the Crew handily.
But even with control of the game, it took until first-half stoppage time for RSL to break through.
Javier Morales teed up a free kick from about 25 yards out, blasting a shot toward the wall waiting in the box. The ball took a fortunate deflection off Beckerman, changed direction, and skidded past Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson.
"Before I knew what was going on, [the ball] was in goal," Beckerman said afterward.
Salt Lake dominated the game from the outset, finishing with more than 65 percent of the possession, and stringing together 556 total passes with Columbus content to leave plenty of space unoccupied around the field.
RSL added to its lead with a 51st-minute Devon Sandoval tap-in of an Olmes Garcia cross, and an 83rd-minute strike from midfielder Luis Gil.
Columbus came into the night riding a two-game winning streak, thanks to four goals from midfielder Federico Higuain. But the Crew found little room to work. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, back after missing Wednesday's game in Portland with a stomach virus, was largely untested, having to make only one save in the half.
In the 89th minute, it was the hero Beckerman who iced it with a strike from the top of the box.
"I always want the guys that work extremely hard to be credited with some statistics," Kreis said of his defenisve midfielder and captain. "But at the end of the day, it's not too important to me. It wouldn't matter to me if Kyle didn't score a single goal all year, because I know what he puts in and what he does for this group. He was a player I just thought got better and better as the game went on."
The goal brought RSL's total to 48 on the year, supplanting the franchise record of 46 set a season ago.
After watching his teammates pull out an emotional draw in Portland on Wednesday, Beckerman said he did not want to squander the effort and lose ground in the standings Saturday.
RSL now has 45 points and sits atop the MLS tables in a tight race, with little margin for error. The team will have a chance to put more distance between itself and the Timbers when Portland comes to Rio Tinto on Friday. Salt Lake beat Portland 2-1 in Open Cup play in Sandy earlier this year.
Gil called the win over Columbus a "statement" for the club going forward.
"We picked ourselves back up," he said. "But now we have to show we can keep doing it."
Storylines RSL 4, Crew 0
R Kyle Beckerman's second goal of the night gives RSL 48 goals on the year. The franchise record, set a season ago, had been 46.
• Nick Rimando makes just one save in the shutout.