Looking to keep key players fresh ahead of Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal in New England, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic made a number of changes to his lineup Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
Considering the Fire's lineup, the team's league-record road winless streak and that RSL is undefeated at home this season, the result went as expected. The hosts won 3-1.
Olmes Garcia and Javier Morales scored inside the first half hour and RSL (10-7-7, 37 points) cruised to an easy home win. Garcia scored in the 14th minute on what appeared to be a saveable low shot, but Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson got wrong-footed. Morales had the assist on the goal and later scored via a penalty kick in the 29th minute. Juan Martinez controlled a ball in the box and Eric Gehrig charged into him without being near the ball for the penalty.
The Fire (4-11-6, 18 points) got one back when Arturo Alvarez volleyed in a Nick LaBrocca cross in the 58th minute. It was Alvarez's third goal of the season.
However, the two-goal lead was quickly restored. Morales scored his second of the match by pinging one in off the post just six minutes after Alvarez got the Fire back in the match.
With an eye on Tuesday's big game, the Fire made seven changes from the starting lineup that played to a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls last Sunday. Two of those changes were forced due to Joao Meira's injury and Khaly Thiam's suspension. Johan Kappelhof, Rodrigo Ramos, Sean Johnson and John Goossens moved to the bench. Matt Polster was not even on the bench.
Gehrig, who made his second start of the season, was one of the replacements. Lampson, Brandon Vincent, Michael Stephens, Nick LaBrocca and Jonathan Campbell also returned to the lineup.
Luis Solignac, the Argentine forward the Fire traded for on Wednesday, started despite not meeting his teammates until they landed in Salt Lake on Friday. Solignac had a couple notable plays in the early minutes, including a nice one-two with Michael de Leeuw, but the Fire attack didn't pressure RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando until late in the match.
Rimando set a new MLS record for the most wins by a goalkeeper. This was Rimando's 181st win in goal, breaking Kevin Hartman's record.
Michael de Leeuw and David Accam both subbed off at halftime with the Fire trailing by two goals. Alvarez subbed off in the 68th minute.