CARSON, Calif. — Fabian Espindola's third multi-goal game of his Major League Soccer career enabled Real Salt Lake to extend its winning streak and to strengthen its hold on first place in the Western Conference.
Espindola scored twice and Will Johnson added a third goal in a 3-0 victory over Chivas USA on Saturday night in front of 13,816 at the Home Depot Center.
Real (10-3-2) used its third consecutive victory to lengthen its unbeaten streak to seven games. In the process, RSL increased its lead to five points over idle San Jose and seven points over third-place Vancouver.
"The guys played probably the best match they've played this year, from start to finish," Real coach Jason Kreis said. "For me, it was probably their most complete match. They just did an excellent job on both sides of the ball."
Nick Rimando made three saves for his fifth shutout of the year and the 130th victory of his career. The win moves Rimando within one of Zach Thornton for second place in MLS all-time victories.
Espindola put RSL ahead in the 41st minute after Jonny Steele out-hustled Chivas USA's Ante Jazic to intercept goalkeeper Dan Kennedy's clearance.
Steele passed to Kyle Beckerman, who sent an aerial ball forward to Espindola. The Argentine forward's glancing header from nine yards sailed inside the left post.
Espindola scored his sixth goal of the season in the 54th minute. After taking Ned Grabavoy's through ball on the right flank, Espindola juked past defender Rauwshan McKenzie and fired a 10-yard diagonal shot inside the left post.
"During this off period, he's been working extremely hard in the training sessions and scoring in every single session," Kreis said. "I'm glad to see that translate onto the field because, sometimes, you see players light things up on the training field, and then game time comes and they don't.
"I'm really glad he's reaped the benefits of all his hard work the last two weeks."
Johnson added his first goal of the season in stoppage time. After a series of short passes, Javier Morales found an unmarked Johnson for a 14-yard shot inside the right post.
Morales replaced Jamison Olave in the 61st minute to make his first appearance since May 9. A compressed disc in his back sidelined Morales.
"He was always going to play," Kreis said. "It was a question whether he would play between 30 and 45 minutes. I was wanting to play him only 30, and I'm most pleased we got to where we were at halftime and I didn't need to bring him on at halftime.
"I think he looked pretty good. Of course, he's not 100 percent fit right now and he's certainly not going to be at the top of his game. But he's shown us over the last week in training and in some moments tonight that he's definitely still got it."
Chivas USA (4-7-3) had its two best chances to score in the second half. But in the 75th minute, Nat Borchers tackled Juan Agudelo's cross intended for Juan Pablo Angel across the end line to force a corner kick.
Then in the 85th minute, Rimando dived to deflect Agudelo's 9-yard shot away from the left post with his right hand.
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