CARSON, Calif. — One week after helping Alvario Saborio score three times, Fabian Espindola took control offensively and enabled Real Salt Lake to overcome an early deficit against Major League Soccer's defending champion.
Espindola scored twice in a two-minute span to give RSL a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd at the Home Depot Center.
With its fourth win in five games, second-place RSL (17-11-4) extended its lead over Los Angeles (15-12-5) to five points and broke the Galaxy's 10-game unbeaten streak against MLS and CONCACAF Champions' League opponents.
Espindola has played a vital role in Real's recent success, with three goals and three assists in three games.
"He was spectacular again," said RSL coach Jason Kreis, who attributed Espindola's success to lessened tension.
"Maybe there's a little bit of relaxation," Kreis said, "Just to take the weight off his shoulders and say, 'I believe it's going to come if I do the right things.'"
Yet for Kreis, his team's emotional discipline proved decisive after the Galaxy imposed early pressure and took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute on Robbie Keane's 15th goal.
Keane, who now has 11 goals in the past 14 games, received Juninho's right-wing cross and volleyed a diagonal 16-yard shot from the left side of the penalty area.
"They really put us under in the first 15 minutes," Kreis said. "I think a lot of teams — and even ourselves in some patches of the season, and certainly in prior years — would fold up and really just reel.
"But everybody stayed calm and realized that we're going to get chances."
Espindola converted his first chance in the 25th minute. Saborio sent a pass to a cutting, unmarked Espindola, who scored from nine yards out to force a 1-1 tie.
Then in the 27th minute, Espindola scored his ninth goal. Espindola's leaping header off Javier Morales' aerial right-wing pass bounced inside the far post from 15 yards.
David Beckham gave the Galaxy its best chance to tie in the 37th minute when his corner kick swerved toward the net, but RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando deflected the ball with his left hand and Jamison Olave cleared it.
Rimando made five saves for his 16th victory, one less than league co-leaders Jimmy Nielsen and Jon Busch.
Will Johnson missed the game to be with his girlfriend, who was delivering their first child. Jonny Steele replaced Johnson on the left flank in his first start against MLS competition since Sept. 6, and played 76 minutes.
The Galaxy's Landon Donovan, the all-time leading scorer for the United States' national team, left the game in the 85th minute after colliding with Olave as both were pursuing a loose ball. A dazed Donovan walked gingerly to the bench with an injured left knee.
The United States will play Antigua and Barbuda on the road on Friday, followed by a home match against Guatemala on Oct. 16 in World Cup qualifying.
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