RSL: Team looks to change its luck on the road
Carson, Calif. » The last time Pablo Campos and Fabian Espindola met Chivas USA, they ignited a scoring rampage that helped save Real Salt Lake's season.
Now, coach Jason Kreis could use them to do it again.
The fellow forwards will be in the spotlight -- along with reigning MLS Player of the Week Alvaro Saborio -- when RSL meets the Goats again at the Home Depot Center tonight, trying to build on the best start in its history and shake off a three-game road losing streak.
That's because Robbie Findley is away with the national team, trying to earn a spot at the World Cup next month, leaving the scoring burden to his remaining teammates in their first road game in a month.
"We all work together," Espindola said. "We have to score. We know that. We have to do that."
Of course, Saborio is as hot as any striker in Major League Soccer, having scored twice against Houston last week to build his team lead to four goals.
And it's probably safe to expect Campos to start alongside him, considering he has played well off the bench lately -- and in an exhibition last weekend -- while Espindola still is rebuilding his fitness after missing three straight games with a sprained ankle.
Coach Jason Kreis also will be without midfielder Will Johnson, who's away preparing for an international friendly with his Canadian national team against Argentina next week. Veteran Ned Grabavoy was competing with young Nelson Gonzalez and rookie Collen Warner to replace Johnson in the midfield, after recovering from his knee injury.
"It's nice to have to make some difficult choices," Kreis said.
While RSL is 4-3-1 and ranks second in the league with 15 goals, the Goats are 3-5-1, at the foot of the MLS Western Conference while starting and stopping in their first season under new coach Martin Vasquez.
The Goats have lost back-to-back shutouts -- forward Justin Braun of Salt Lake City is listed as questionable after suffering a knee injury last week -- and RSL is hoping it can use the momentum from a perfect three-game homestand to avoid the kind of costly mistakes that have plagued it during its road skid.
"We're pretty confident that we can go in there and get a result," midfielder Andy Williams said. "We've been close the last three games on the road, and hopefully we can turn it around" tonight.
If the forwards play the way they did in the last meeting, they won't have any problem.
Desperate for a victory to stay in the playoff chase following its worst game of last season, RSL stomped the Goats 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium last August. Campos headed home his first goal for RSL off a cross from Espindola, before Espindola himself scored on a blazing left-footer.
Findley finished the desperate Goats with two counterattacking goals in the final five minutes.
"That was a good game," Campos recalled with a smile.
But "it was a home game," Espindola cautioned. "So it's going to be a totally different game" tonight. RSL hopes so -- different from its last three road games, anyway.
RSL hopes for better road luck road
At the Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
Kickoff » 8:30 p.m. MDT
TV » KUSG Channel 2.2 (Comcast 111, Dish Network 12)
Radio » 700 AM, 1600 AM, 106.1 FM
Records » RSL 4-3-1; Chivas 3-5-1
All-Time series » Chivas leads, 9-4-3
Last meeting » RSL 4, Chivas 0 (Aug. 26, 2009)
About RSL » Back on the road for the first time in a month, it's trying to improve on the best start in franchise history with what would be the second-earliest road win ever. It's only 1-7-2 all-time against Chivas on the road, but 1-1-1 in its last three visits, counting the 2008 playoffs.
About Chivas » Coach Martin Vasquez is in his first season leading the Goats and is trying to establish a more attacking brand of soccer after an offseason overhaul. But they're coming off back-to-back shutout losses to Houston and Columbus.