CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Real Salt Lake scored twice in the second half to bag a 2-0 victory over Chivas USA at Grande Sport World on Tuesday in the Utah club’s final competitive match before their first-leg matchup with Columbus in the CONCACAF Champions League on Feb. 22.
RSL benefited from a Jimmy Conrad own-goal in the 62nd minute off an Andy Williams corner kick, then Will Johnson followed that up eight minutes later after lashing a loose ball past Chivas ‘keeper Zach Thornton.
Interestingly, both goals came against Chivas USA’s A-team, which was inserted into the game in the 57th minute after head coach Robin Fraser threw a substitute-laden lineup onto the pitch to start the match. The Goats kicked off with a lineup that featured newcomers Andrew Boyens, Alejandro Moreno and Victor Estupiñan, and trialists Guillermo Torres and Jimmy Asprilla, as well as special guest Eriq Zavaleta, who is the nephew of Chivas assistant coach Greg Vanney.
Meanwhile, Fraser's former boss, Jason Kreis, went with his first team in their final test before what is essentially an early start to their season in CONCACAF play. The only exception was Paulo Jr. starting up top alongside Alvaro Saborio while Fabian Espindola and Arturo Alvarez recover from injuries.
Paulo Jr. proved to be a lively complement to the big Costa Rican, using his speed to get into tight spaces and annoy Chivas’ makeshift back line early. The diminutive Brazilian found himself sprung on goal a handful of times in the first frame, throwing himself into several scoring chances of his own and heading one over the crossbar just after halftime.
The 22-year-old’s performance prompted both Kreis and GM Garth Lagerwey to admit the possibility that Paulo Jr. could find himself in the starting lineup against Columbus.
RSL held their collective breaths just after the half-hour mark, however, when All-Star playmaker Javier Morales went to the turf and had to be helped off the field by the team trainer after being sandwiched by two Chivas USA players. Team officials said he has a mild left ankle sprain, however, and shouldn’t miss much training time.
Estupiñan showed some dangerous play again for Chivas, hoping to back up his 25- to 30-goal prediction, but didn’t come close to a legitimate scoring chance. He started the game wide left then moved up top when Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza came on in the 37th minute.
Torres, brother of US World Cup veteran José Francisco Torres, looked a little frustrated at times and off his rhythm as Salt Lake dictated most of the possession and pace in the first half.
That changed around the hour mark when Fraser switched out every player in his lineup except for Mendoza. The rhythm changed immediately as the Goats had more time on the ball and more ideas. Blair Gavin, Gerson Mayen, Michael Lahoud and Mendoza in particular went to work on the offense and started a few offensive sequences they couldn’t finish.
Real Salt Lake head back to Utah on Tuesday evening as they make their final preparations for their trip to Columbus next week. As with Monday’s Crew-Rapids match, Tuesday’s game was also played with the official CONCACAF Champions League ball at RSL’s request.
Chivas USA next take on Vancouver here on Saturday and will likely be bolstered by the arrival of fullback Heath Pearce, whom the team acquired on Tuesday from FC Dallas.
RSL - Jimmy Conrad (own-goal, 62')
RSL - Will Johnson (Álvaro Saborío, 70)
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran (Robbie Russell, 30’), Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Chris Wingert (Beltran, 60’), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy (Johnson, 60’), Will Johnson (Andy Williams, 30), Javier Morales (Warner, 30’); Alvaro Saborio, Paulo Jr. (Jean Alexandre, 85’)
Chivas USA: Sergio Arias (Zach Thornton, 60’; Jorge Flores (Ante Jazic, 60’), Eriq Zavaleta (Michael Umana, 60’), Andrew Boyens (Jimmy Conrad, 60’), Jimmy Asprilla (Zarek Valentin, 60’); Ben Zemanski (Jon Okafor, 60’), Guillermo Torres (Chukwudi Chijindu, 30’), Mariano Trujillo (Michael Lahoud, 60’), Víctor Estupiñán (Alan Gordon, 60’), Jesus Padilla (Gerson Mayen, 60’), Alejandro Moreno (Francisco Mendoza, 37’)