Major League Soccer: Real Salt Lake rallies to win at L.A. Galaxy, 2-1
Espindola scores twice as Real rallies to beat Galaxy and tighten its grip on a favorable playoff spot.
Published: October 7, 2012 12:11AM
Updated: January 14, 2013 11:31PM
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Real Salt Lake's Tony Rimando, left, and Los Angeles Galaxy's Robbie Keane battle for the ball during the second half of their MLS soccer match on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in Carson, Calif. Real Salt Lake won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Carson, Calif. • Tony Beltran called it a “big statement.” Fellow defender Chris Wingert said it proved that Real Salt Lake can be one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer as the playoffs approach.

And Fabian Espindola?

Well, he can say pretty much whatever he wants, after continuing his torrid pace by scoring two monstrous goals to haul RSL back from an early deficit for a crucial 2-1 victory over the star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.

“The good thing is we started losing, and then we came back from that,” Espindola said. “That’s a big thing, you know? That’s the kind of team that can win the championship.”

The MLS Cup remains a long way off, but RSL certainly took another step closer to its ultimate goal by tightening its grip on a playoff spot that would keep it out of the dreaded new wild-card game.

It’s alone in second place in the MLS Western Conference with a 17-11-5 record for 55 points — five clear of the third-place Galaxy, who fell to 15-12-5 with two games remaining and lost captain Landon Donovan to a knee injury in the final minutes.

The Seattle Sounders lurk in fourth with 49 points, and still have four games left.

“It’s a huge win,” RSL’s Javier Morales said, “especially the way we won this game. We played an awesome game, and could have scored a couple more goals.”

The two it had from Espindola during an electrifying first half were enough for RSL to become the first team ever to beat the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center twice in the same season, and in the process sweep all four games it has played here — including two against Chivas USA — by a combined 12-2 score.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, RSL did it by recovering from a world-class strike by the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane in the 17th minute.

The Irish international used his left foot to volley a long, rainbow cross from teammate Juninho past goalkeeper Nick Rimando at the far post, rewarding the Galaxy for relentless pressure through the opening minutes.

“They really put us under it,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “I was really interested to see what our response would be. I think a lot of teams, and even ourselves in some patches of the season and certainly in prior years, would fold up shop and just reel.”

“But our guys handled it the exact right way,” he said. “Everybody stayed calm and realized we were going to still get chances.”

They did, and Espindola made the most of them.

Just eight minutes after Keane struck, the Argentine forward dummied a pass to the top of the box, and Alvaro Saborio played him through behind defender Omar Gonzalez for an easy strike past goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

Three minutes later, Espindola knocked home a header off a cross from Morales for his fifth goal in four games at the Home Depot Center this season. He also had three assists in a 4-0 win over Chivas last weekend.

“He’s in great form right now,” Beltran said.

From there, RSL repelled attack after attack, and emerged with its third straight victory and third-straight multi-goal game after a stretch in which is scored just three goals in six games.

Things are coming together, yeah?

“Obviously, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves now,” Kreis said. “That was just a fun game to be a part of.”

mcl@sltrib.comTwitter: @MCLTribune

Storylines

R IN SHORT • Fabian Espindola scores twice to lift RSL to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy.

KEY STAT • Espindola has five goals and three assists in four games at the Home Depot Center this season.

KEY MOMENT • In a span of three minutes, Espindola strikes twice to give RSL a lead it never relinquished.