BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Real Salt Lake came into Wednesday night's game at Chicago searching for more offensive creativity and goal scoring. But when leading scorer Fabian Espindola left the game with a leg injury in the seventh minute, it just added to RSL's offensive woes.
RSL, already missing Javier Morales with a broken ankle, and Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez who did not make the trip in order to rest up from national team play, had just two shots on goal in a 0-0 draw at Toyota Park.
For RSL (6-3-5), it was their third straight tie and extended their winless string to four contests. Chicago (2-4-10) extended its unbeaten streak to six games.
"That's three games without a loss, and when we have no forwards, I think that's OK," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "It kind of dumbfounds me at the moment because that's our fourth, fifth forward now that's been ruled unavailable through one circumstance or another.
"It's uncanny. I don't remember ever a time being in such dire straits. 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, And credit to them, I thought they did a pretty admirable job, at least they fought.
Espindola, who came into the game scoring three goals in the previous three games, was taken down by Chicago's Cory Gibbs in the fourth minute. Gibbs received a yellow card. Kreis said Espindola aggravated a hamstring injury from Saturday's game against D.C. United.
Teenager Luis Gil entered the match as a substitute for Espindola in the seventh minute.
RSL midfielder Collen Warner, who entered the game with no goals and no assists in four starts since Morales' injury, tried to give his team a lift in the first half. Warner took a cross from Artur Aghasyan but had his right-footed shot batted away by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 28th minute. He also had a close shot blocked by Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba in the final minute of the half.
"Another night where Collen did quite a few good things for us. Is he having a 100 percent game for us right now? No," Kreis said. "But I thought he had a good night for himself. On a different night he scores."
Kyle Beckerman had RSL's other shot on goal in the first half in the 19th minute. Diego Chaves had the Fire's lone shot on net in the half.
"Our main concern was to get a shutout, and we were able to do that," Beckerman said. "(Espindola's injury) was tough to take but it was almost like it was so early that we were kind of just starting the game with a new player. I thought Luis did well. We tried not to miss a beat but Fabi's been such a huge player for us that it was a bit of an adjustment. You just get on with it.
"We'll try to take some confidence from this game and really try to put the pressure on Toronto (on Saturday) and get three points at home."
RSL got sound defensive play from Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran in the opening half. Olave blocked a shot by Chicago's Gonzalo Segares late in the half while Beltran knocked away an attempt from Orr Barouch in the sixth minute.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando made four saves on the night.
"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. We wanted to make sure (Dominic) Orduro didn't get the ball in the flanks. They've got a lot of speed, and I think we did well with that."
The Fire put some pressure on RSL's defense in the second half. Patrick Nyarko dribbled past one defender and nearly another before taking a shot that was saved in the bottom left corner in the 62nd minute. Eight minutes later, Marco Pappa's left-footed attempt from outside the box was saved.
Aghasyan missed left from the right side of the box for RSL in the 56th minute. Gil had a shot sail high in the 68th minute and missed wide left from the center of the box with his right foot 12 minutes later.
Toyota Park's fireworks crew celebrated prematurely when a shot by Segares landed on the top of the net and bounced off in the 82nd minute.