RSL keeps Fire at bay in scoreless tie
Bridgeview, Ill. • With a makeshift lineup up front, the odds of much scoring seemed slim for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
So the main charge for those playing behind were to keep host Chicago off the board.
Goalie Nick Rimando and the RSL defense didn't disappoint as they combined for the season's eighth shutout in a 0-0 Major League Soccer deadlock at Toyota Park.
"I think in all we played great defense," Rimando said. "Their opportunities came from our mistakes bad clearances, bad balls, bad giveaways. But I thought we reacted well and we put all of our fires out defensively."
Rimando recorded his seventh shutout of the season and second of the month for RSL (6-3-5, 23 points).
Real's front line players on Wednesday had played in only a collective 18 games, with FabiÃ¡n EspÃndola the veteran with nine. He was joined by Artur Aghasyan, making his first start.
EspÃndola left after seven minutes, replaced by 17-year-old Luis Gil, playing in just his seventh game.
"Tonight for 80 or 70 minutes of the game, we have an apprentice player and a 17-year-old as our two forwards out there," Real coach Jason Kreis said. "And credit to them, I thought they did a pretty admirable job; at least they fought."
Instead it was midfielders who helped pick up the pace.
One of RSL's best first half opportunities came in the 29th minute as Robbie Russell crossed to midfielder Collen Warren.
Warren lined a shot right above Fire goalie Sean Johnson, who leaped straight up at the last second and punched the ball away.
In the 43rd minute, midfielder Will Johnson's running shot was just off target as it hit the side of the net. Then in stoppage time, Warren was briefly along with the ball outside the Chicago goal box, but lost possession as he tried to set up a try.
But RSL's opportunities diminished in the second half as the game's momentum swung with Chicago sharpening its attack. Still, neither team found the back of the net.
The tie was the fourth in Chicago past five games.
"We didn't have a good start to the game and I thought we were a little bit sluggish," Fire interim coach Frank Klopas said. "We forced the ball and made turnovers at times."
But Klopas, named head coach several weeks ago after the firing of Carlos de los Cobos, said his team's play was much improved in the second half.
"We were better with the ball, we moved the ball better and looked to switch the point of attack," he said. "We pushed the game, but unfortunately you only get one point [with a tie]."
The Fire outshot Real Salt Lake 13-11, with a 7-4 second half advantage. They also had a 4-2 edge in shots on goal.
Real has a quick turnaround and hosts Toronto FC on Saturday, the first of fou straight games at Rio Tinto Stadium. They also host Wilmington (N.C.) at 7 p.m. next Tuesday in a U.S. Open Cup match.
R Nick Rimando and the RSL defense combine for the team's eighth shutout of the season.
• RSL's short-handed attack manages 11 total shots, but just two on goal, for the game.