James Riley, right, pulls on the jersey of Real Salt Lake's Alvaro… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)
Chivas USA Coach Robin Fraser said he used the recent three-week break in the Major Soccer League schedule to "focus on the minor details that we need to improve on." Apparently scoring goals wasn't among them.
Either that or Fraser's lessons didn't take because Chivas proved just as punchless Saturday as it did before the break, losing, 3-0, to Real Salt Lake before an announced crowd of 13,816 at the Home Depot Center.
How bad was it? Real Salt Lake 'keeper Nick Rimando had to make just three saves — and only one of those required him to move.
And he got more than enough offensive support from Fabian Espindola, whose two goals Saturday gave him six for the season — or three fewer than Chivas has a team. Will Johnson got the final score with just seconds left in second-half stoppage time as Salt Lake ran its unbeaten streak to seven games.
For Chivas, the loss was its first in five MLS matches — although that's a bit misleading since three of those games ended in draws. Of more concern is the fact the shutout marked the sixth time in 14 games in which Chivas has failed to score.
And as if to make the loss complete, Chivas 'keeper Dan Kennedy, who has played spectacularly at times this season, gave up more than one goal for just the third time — though his defense had a lot to do with that.
To be fair Chivas was short-handed since forward Jose Erick Correa, who is tied for the team scoring lead, did not suit up because of a right hamstring strain. That left strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Juan Agudelo to start up front together for the first time.
Espindola gave Real Salt Lake the only goal it would need in the 41st minute when he beat Chivas defender Danny Califf to a long through ball from Kyle Beckerman on the right wing, then ducked into the ball and redirected it past Kennedy. That snapped a 210-minute scoreless streak against Chivas dating to last season.
But Espindola didn't wait long to get another one, scoring nine minutes into the second half after latching onto a long, low pass from Ned Grabavoy deep on the right wing, dribbling around defender Rauwshan McKenzie and slipping a left-footed shot from a tough angle into the center of the net for his sixth goal of the season.
Chivas' best chance — really it's only chance — in the opening half came in the seventh minute on a long free kick from Oswaldo Minda toward McKenzie at the far post. But Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio leapt in front, deflecting the ball to Rimando.
Chivas had another opportunity less than five minutes into the second half when Angel sent a left-footed cross to Alejandro Moreno in the center of the box. But Moreno's soft header floated directly into Rimando's gloved hands for the easy save.
After Espindola's second goal, Salt Lake made things even tougher for Chivas, protecting its lead by defending in numbers and dropping as many as eight players into the box. Despite that Rimando was still forced to make a spectacular one-handed save on a Agudelo header in the 85th minute to preserve his fifth shutout of the year.