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After mid-week victory, RSL look forward to the road

Posted on 29 August 2009 by Patrick McShane

Real Salt Lake continues to cling to playoff hopes this season, after dispatching their Western Conference rivals, Chivas USA, 4-0 on Wednesday night. With the win RSL move into a tie for fifth place in the West and are now only five points out from second place Los Angeles Galaxy. They now shift their focus to the road as they tackle the Kansas City Wizards Saturday in another crucial battle.

Not only did RSL start the night with a unique lineup, giving recent acquisitions Pablo Campos and Rachid El Khalifi the start up top in the 4-3-3 formation, but they also debuted a mishmash kit of road jerseys with home shorts due to a prematch mix-up. After the match, it appeared that at least one of these changes paid dividends, as it was new boy Campos that opened the scoring right before half, taking a beautiful cross from Fabian Espindola and nodding the ball home. It was Campos’ first goal in an RSL kit and a well deserved pay off after controlling possession in the final third for much of the first half.

The second half continued to produce more of the same for RSL, as they seemed to loosen their style of play after securing the go-ahead goal. In fact, RSL out-shot Chivas 16-6 for the match, putting a shocking 11 of those shots on goal. However, Chivas still continued to press and the match felt within their grasp until a stunning individual effort by Espindola pushed it out of reach.

After taking a long pass from Andy Williams over the top, Espindola found himself in wide-open space on the left wing. Pressing former RSL player Carey Talley back towards goal, Espindola found just enough space to the side and launched a left-footed rocket past replacement keeper Lance Parker. It was Espindola’s first multi-point performance in over a year and his first goal for RSL this season. Noted coach Jason Kreis after the match: “I thought he was fantastic. I was pleased with his service on the first goal, an excellent choice by him, and the goal he scored was very pleasing because I know he’s been extremely frustrated to not score more than he has this year. For me, that’s a Fabian Espíndola goal – we’ll usually see one of those every day in training.”

It took substitute Robbie Findley just ten minutes to ice the victory, victimizing Talley two more times for his 9th and 10th goals of the season. Both goals came off of perfect passes through middle by Chris Wingert and Clint Mathis, leaving Findley isolated on the left side of the box where he could use his speed and skill. Findley is the first RSL player to score in double digits for the season since Jeff Cunningham netted 16 in 2006, and he currently sits tied for second place in the race for the MLS Golden Boot, only one goal behind leader Conor Casey.

While the victory gives RSL a much-needed boost, the team can’t celebrate for too long as they now shift their focus to the Wizards. While they have been a disturbing 1-8-2 on the road this season, there is reason to believe that victory this weekend is obtainable. The Wizards have been in a tailspin over the past two months, going winless and earning only 6 total points since May 30th .It was this ineptitude that cost previous coach Curt Onalfo his job on August 3rd Often this sort of change can spur a late season change of form and lead to positive results in the face of overall disappointment. However, for the Wizards the positives have been hard to find, particularly after losing 1-0 to Western Conference cellar-dwelling San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday.

If RSL hope to continue their hot streak, they must do it without the services of midfielder Will Johnson who will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation. After delivering a stunning performance on Wednesday, many are anticipating another spotlight performance by Williams in place of the injured Javier Morales. However, it appeared late in the match Wednesday that Williams was gassed and out of energy, meaning the 31-year-old midfielder might not be properly recuperated by Saturday. If that’s the case, fans could see another unique lineup Saturday with another list of new faces ready to step in and perform.

The match kicks off at 6:30 p.m. MT and can be seen locally on KUTV 2.2 Digital / Comcast 111.

• It was announced Thursday that both RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman and forward Robbie Findley were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against El Salvador at RSL’s home Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, September 5, and four days later at Port-au-Spain, Trinidad against Trinidad & Tobago. Neither player will miss time for RSL due to a team bye week. Noted Beckerman: “Wearing the U.S. badge in Rio Tinto Stadium in front of Real Salt Lake’s fans will surely be a special opportunity. I can’t wait for September 5.”

• The mysterious saga involving striker Yura Movsisyan continues to labor on. After signing a contract with Danish side Randers FC that would go in effect at the close of the season, many feared a lame-duck scenario. Instead, Movsisyan played admirably and single-handedly led a comeback against FC Dallas on July 24. Since then, however, he has been sidelined with a rotator cuff injury and has been the subject of many rumors. Some see the injury as a smoke screen by RSL officials due to Movsisyan’s distracting and divisive presence in the locker room. Others continue to validate the injury, and note that he will see out the remainder of his contract in Salt Lake. He is again listed as doubtful for Saturday’s match and no timetable is set for his return.

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