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by Ridge Mahoney, November 6th, 2009 6:45AM
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[MLS] It got the early goals it needed and thus took the aggregate lead in its conference semifinal series, but rather than holding off a determined opponent, the defending MLS champion fell apart. Real Salt Lake rallied from a 2-0 deficit Thursday at Columbus Crew Stadium to score three straight goals and stomp the host, 3-2, to win the series, 4-2, on aggregate and earn a date to play either New England or Chicago for a spot in MLS Cup 2009.

Goals by Javier Morales, Robbie Findley and Andy Williams overturned a 2-0 lead imposed by goals 16 minutes apart from Guillermo Barros Schelotto, whose return to the lineup after sitting out the first leg (a 1-0 RSL victory) sparked the attack and provided the scoreline by which Columbus would have advanced.

Columbus-Real Salt Lake Highlights:

Schelotto scored his first with a swerving 45-yard free kick that bounced past RSL goalie Nick Rimando in the 19th minute. He struck again on a feed from Emmanuel Ekpo after Schelotto stripped Robbie Russell of the ball and set an attack in motion by playing a ball to Ekpo, who started in place of Robbie Rogers.

But after Schelotto scored his second goal in the 35th minute, RSL stunned Columbus with two goals of its own before halftime. Javier Morales finished off a superb combination move and pass from Kyle Beckerman with a low shot that snuck under the left glove of keeper Will Hesmer to tie the aggregate, 2-2, and Findley converted a penalty kick in stoppage time after right back Frankie Hedjuk dragged down Fabian Espindola well inside the box.

A bounce of the ball and a two referee's calls went against the Crew early in the second half. Schelotto played a free kick to defender Chad Marshall, who headed the ball to fellow center back Eric Brunner on the doorstep, but Rimando smothered the opportunity. In the 57th minute a skipping ball bounced off Williams' hand in the penalty area but Referee Baldomero Toledo ignored the howls of indignation, and did so again a few minutes later when Alejandro Moreno appeared to be tripped but took an extra step before going down, and instead of winning a penalty was cautioned for diving.

Williams clinched victory in the 74th minute by collecting a short corner kick from Morales and advancing to the edge of the box. His hard, low shot escaped Hesmer's lunge and hit net just inside the far post.

A few sharp reactions from Rimando before and after Williams' goal snuffed the fading chances of the Crew, and assured MLS of a third occurrence in the past five seasons of the Supporters' Shield winner (regular-season champ) falling in the first round.

It was also a third consecutive home loss for the Crew, which had reeled off 24 games unbeaten dating back 16 months.

Maybe the fans knew what was coming; the announced attendance was just 10,109.

Eastern Conference semifinal, second leg
Nov. 5 in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus 2 Real Salt Lake 3
(RSL wins, 4-2, on aggregate)
CLB -- Guillermo Barros Schelotto 1 (unassisted) 19
CLB -- Guillermo Barros Schelotto 2 (Emmanuel Ekpo 1) 35
RSL -- Javier Morales 1 (Kyle Beckerman 1, Robbie Findley 1) 37
RSL -- Robbie Findley 2 (penalty kick) 47+
RSL -- Andy Williams 1 (Javier Morales 1) 74
Columbus Crew -- Hesmer, Hejduk (Lenhart 74), Brunner, Marshall, Padula (Garey 84), Ekpo (Rogers 64), Brian Carroll, O'Rourke, Gaven, Barros Schelotto, Moreno.
Real Salt Lake -- Rimando, Russell, Wingert, Borchers, Olave, Williams (Alexandre 91+), Beckerman, Morales (Mathis 82), Johnson, Findley, Espindola (Movsisyan 65).
Yellow Cards:
CLB -- Danny O'Rourke (caution; Reckless Foul) 48
CLB -- Alejandro Moreno (caution; Simulation) 59
RSL -- Jamison Olave (caution; Handball) 68
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Thomas Supple; Joe Fletcher
4th official: Silviu Petrescu
time of game: 1:53


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