Although they appeared headed for a draw, Real Salt Lake were able to eke out a gritty win on the road against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night. Second-half substitute Fabian Espindola erased Justin Braun’s late equalizer to give RSL their second road victory of the season, matching their away tally from a year ago.
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It seemed Real Salt Lake had several factors going against them in this match. The defending champs found themselves without two of their starters, in a tough away match and an injury to captain Kyle Beckerman that took him out of the game early in the first half.
That said, it was a bit of a surprise when defender Chris Wingert put Real Salt Lake ahead during stoppage time at the end of the first half. His goal came off a rebound after midfielder Javier Morales hit the far upright from a hard, low shot. Wingert, who scored his first career MLS goal in 147 appearances, put away the sitter as if he had done it many times before.
“Finally, finally," Wingert told MLSsoccer.com of his first tally. "It’s been a long time coming."
Chivas USA refused to go away quietly, however, and came out of the locker rooms determined to even things up in the second half. Their determination paid off when, in the 80th minute, Goats forward Justin Braun put away a volley to tie things up at 1-1.
With 10 minutes to play, all signs indicated that the match was headed for a draw. Nevertheless, RSL head coach Jason Kreis’ decision to bring on Fabian Espindola just prior to that goal would pay off.
The quick and talented Espindola wreaked havoc on Chivas USA’s back line with his runs down the left side of the field. His game-winner would come off of one of these runs. After a nice one-touch flick from Alvaro Saborio that sprung Espindola ahead of the defenders, the Argentine striker slotted the ball past Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton for the win.
“With the assist from Saborio, I just sprinted and put the ball past the goalkeeper and scored the goal,” said an obviously pleased Espindola after the match.
Wingert felt the result was both deserved and a bit lucky.
“We felt like we deserved to win," he said, "but at the same time, with 10 minutes left to go, momentum had changed and we were tied, so we felt fortunate."
With this result, RSL tied their longest win streak of four since the club was founded in 2005. More importantly, the victory keeps the defending champions in a three-way tie for second place, behind Western Conference leaders LA Galaxy.