CARSON -- Chivas USA has been punished for mistakes all season -- it's a recurring theme for the Goats, and so is how they create so little from a goodly amount of possession.
Both were at play Saturday night, when they ran into a stronger, more precise and -- because of Chivas' unexpected win back in March -- more pumped up Real Salt Lake side, which used its every advantage to post a 3-0 victory before an announced 13,816 at Home Depot Center.
Fabian Espindola scored on each side of halftime and Will Johnson added a stoppage-time strike as RSL (10-3-2, 32 points) extended its unbeaten streak to seven games, became the first MLS club with double-digit wins and restored its lead atop the Supporters' Shield standings after D.C. United had grabbed the top spot a few hours earlier.
An uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper Dan Kennedy led to the first goal, RSL's transition game tore a hole in Chivas' midfield for the second, and the Goats had no answer, struggling again to accomplish something worthwhile in the final third.
“That's been, I'd say, our Achilles all year,” said left back Ante Jazic, who was involved in the error on RSL's opener. “I mean, we do a great job getting to the final third, and then that last pass or the final cross or the final product is lacking.
“It's coming. I think we're playing better as a team in general, but the toughest thing to do in this game is score, and we definitely have to start scoring some goals.”
It's the sixth time in 14 games Chivas (4-7-3, 15 points) has been shut out this season -- and the fifth time in eight home games. Only Toronto FC and Philadelphia, the two worst teams in MLS, have fewer than the Goats' nine goals.
Chivas created virtually nothing worth noting until it was down by two goals, and only Juan Agudelo's 85th-minute header from a Ryan Smith cross tested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“Certainly, we have players that we think are good players, and we have to be able to execute,” Goats coach Robin Fraser said. “Tonight we didn't execute in the attacking end, and we took stretches of possession and didn't turn them into dangerous chances.
“I do feel like we've had this conversation many times.”
The game wasn't particularly one-sided. Both teams were organized most of the way, leaving little space to exploit, and both had nice periods with the ball while failing to make anything of it. Espindola's speed up front and Ned Grabavoy's phenomenal play running the attack made the difference for RSL, which used forays at the close of the first half and about 10 minutes into the second half to take command.
The game turned on Kennedy's error in the 41st minute. He had come off his line to grab a high-bouncing ball, and held onto it long enough to clear the box and spread the field in front of him before hurling it toward Jazic on the left flank.
The throw wasn't good, a little too far in front of Jazic (“the ball just kind floated up to Ante,” Kennedy said), and Jonny Steele beat Jazic in a footrace to the ball (“I thought I was in acres of space, but obviously not, and they were able to capitalize,” Jazic said). Steele fed Kyle Beckerman, whose sharp serve in front of the penalty area met Espindola, who slipped past Danny Califf to head past Kennedy.
It was 2-0 in the 56th after Grabavoy, on the break, fed Espindola with a through ball to the right flank, and the Argentine forward blew past Rauwshan McKenzie into the box and finished from a tight angle.
Alvaro Saborio, who was denied a good goal on a bad offside call in the first half, nearly made it 3-0 from another Grabavoy through ball a minute later, but he pushed the ball too far as he went past Kennedy in the box and couldn't catch up to it before it rolled past the end line.
Johnson added a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time, with Javier Morales -- returning from a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for a little more than a month -- picking up the assist.
The scoreline didn't sit well with the Goats, but it was an apt result.
“It's extremely disappointing,” Fraser said, “and as I look back at the game, I thought there were many things that we did well, in terms of our work rate and winning balls in good spots and being able to start attacks in good spots. But certainly when you look back at it, all you think is 3-0 score.”
Said Kennedy: “[Ben Zemanski] said, he's like, 'It didn't feel like a 3-0 game,' and I said, 'You know, to be honest with you, they never do. They never do. You always have a couple opportunities, it seems it just goes that way where [the other team's chances] get buried and you walk away with nothing. Empty hands.”
WORTH NOTING: Forward Jose Erik Correa and midfielder Miller Bolaņos missed the game with hamstring strains. Both are uncertain for Wednesday's game at HDC against expansion Montreal. ... Saborio scored from Chris Wingert's cross in the 35th minute, but it was waved offside. Replays indicated that was the wrong call, that James Riley kept him onsaide. ... Oswaldo Minda picked up his seventh yellow card of the season in the 71st minute and will be suspended after his next caution. He already served a one-game suspension after his fifth yellow card. ... Blair Gavin shaved off his handlebar mustache, which has drawn inordinate attention, after the game. ... Chivas' 1-0 win March 24 in Sandy, Utah, weighed on RSL. “It was in the back of my mind, for sure,” head coach Jason Kreis said, “and I reminded everybody yesterday that I thought we needed to approach this game with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, that this is one of three teams in the league in 14 games that had beat us, and they did it on our home turf. That has to mean something to us.” ... Chivas faces the Portland Timbers in an MLS Reserve League match on Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Chivas USA 0, Real Salt Lake 3
RSL -- Fabian Espindola (Kyle Beckerman) 41
RSL -- Fabian Espindola (Ned Grabavoy) 56
RSL -- Will Johnson (Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman) 94+
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Ante Jazic; Ben Zemanski, Oswaldo Minda (Cesar Romero, 77), Alejandro Moreno, Blair Gavin (Ryan Smith, 60); Juan Agudelo, Juan Pablo Angel. Unused subs: Paolo Cardozo, Laurent Courtois, Tim Melia, John Alexander Valencia, Jorge Villafaņa.
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave (Javier Morales, 61), Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Jonny Steele, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Will Johnson; Alvaro Saborio (Yordany Alvarez, 86), Fabian Espindola (Paulo Jr., 90). Unused subs: Chris Estridge, Kyle Reynish, Terakazu Tanaka, Sebastian Velasquez.
Yellow cards: Wingert 38 Saborio 71, Minda 72.
Referee: Yader Reyes. Att.: 13,816.
Records: Chivas USA 4-7-3, 15 points; Real Salt Lake 10-3-2, 32 points.