CARSON -- Chivas USA gave up a horrid early goal, went a man up not long afterward and followed with perhaps their finest possession soccer of the season in a debilitating 1-0 loss Saturday night to visiting Real Salt Lake. It didn't add up to much.
There was a lot of good and just enough bad to derail the Goats in the disappointing loss, a result that leaves them scrambling as they seek some way into Major League Soccer's playoffs.
Chivas (7-10-10), which with a victory would have vaulted into 10th place -- just inside MLS's postseason zone -- finds itself in 12th with just one win in its last six games and no goals in five of its last eight.
“We're not doing ourselves any favors ...,” said left back Ante Jazic, whose misplayed back pass led to Alvaro Saborio's 11th-minute goal for RSL. “We still hold our fate in our own hands, but we have to start picking up points soon. That's for sure.”
Chivas was superb from the moment Saborio fired into an open net until the halftime whistle blew, holding nearly constant possession -- especially after RSL center back Nat Borchers was red-carded in the 24th minute for a last-man foul on Nick LaBrocca just outside the Utahns' box.
They had some chances -- the best: Juan Pablo Angel hit the crossbar, and his late blast and LaBrocca's glancing header tested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando -- but not nearly enough for all the time they had the ball, and nearly nothing in a chaotic second half.
“You can't be a man up for that long and not score a goal,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, who fell to his old boss -- RSL coach Jason Kreis -- for the second time this season. “That's the story of the game.”
Even worse, the Goats lost star center back Heath Pearce to a probable torn right hamstring in the second half.
A quick look at Chivas' defeat:
BEST PLAYER: Chivas got outstanding performances in the first half from midfielders LaBrocca, Blair Gavin and Simon Elliott, who set the tone for the Goats' domination by winning nearly every battle they entered and with precise, pretty ball movement that kept RSL on its heels from when they scored until halftime.
BEST GOAL: There was just Saborio's, and it wasn't very good. Jazic, near the midfield stripe on the left sideline, tried to play a pass back and to the middle for David Junior Lopes, but the delivery was, in the Canadian's words, “sloppy” -- sailing past the Brazilian back and toward the Chivas box.
Lopes turned and gave chase and actually beat Saborio to the loose ball, but his slide to knock it away was off-target -- he went over the ball, which ricocheted off his upper leg and onto the forward's path. Saborio needed only to race past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to find an open net.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Just when Chivas USA was on the verge of being completely healthy for the first time all season, it's been hit -- and hard -- by the injury bug.
This time it's Pearce, their All-Star center back, who looks like he'll have to cancel his camp next week with the U.S. national team. He hopes his ailing hamstring is merely a strain and won't keep him out for long -- and the Goats being off until Sept. 10 is a real plus -- but can't be certain until test results are in.
Pearce was hurt in the 59th minute.
“I was running ... wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “Wasn't cutting hard, sprinting hard, slowing down. Just I remember cutting kind of gently to my left, and I just felt a pop in my hamstring.”
Pearce said the training staff told him there was swelling and “they think it's a tear,” but that the pain is nothing close to what he felt when he tore the same hamstring last season with FC Dallas, ending his season prematurely. That tear was high on the hamstring, “just below the glut”; this injury is low, almost at the back of the knee.
“I'll get an MRI and we'll be able to assess specifically how bad it is,” he said. “I hope that it's nothing. I hope that it's a minor strain, but they seem to feel otherwise.”
Chivas has lost backline players in three straight games now. Rookie right back Zarek Valentin has missed two games since departing early with a quad strain from last weekend's draw at Colorado, and Michael Lahoud, who stepped in for Valentin, left early with a sprained ankle in Wednesday's loss.
WORTH NOTING: Fraser went back to his first-choice midfield -- La Brocca, Gavin, Elliott and Jorge Flores -- but stationed Gavin on the right and LaBrocca in the middle rather than vice-versa. ... With Valentin and Lahoud out, Michael Umaña was stationed on the right, and Pearce teamed in the middle with Lopes, who was making his first MLS start. When Pearce went out, Jazic went into the middle and Flores dropped back to left back. ... Chivas thought it should have had a penalty kick when Jamison Olave shoved Alejandro Moreno off the ball in RSL's box in the 39th minute.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “It's easy when you're up a man to have possession of the game, control the flow of the game,” Pearce said. “But we're sitting here in the locker room having a talk after a 1-0 loss -- after being up a man most of the game and giving up a really [bad] goal.
“This is not the time of year where you can make those kinds of mistakes. Every game counts, every minute counts, every play counts. And we, obviously, haven't gotten those in the last two matches. Regardless of how good the game was possession-wise, if you would ask anyone in here, they would rather trade that for a really [bad] game and pull out three points.
“A really disappointing night for us in a lot of ways.”
NEXT: Saturday, Sept. 10, vs. D.C. United at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (KWHY/Channel 22 and KDOC/Channel 56)
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Chivas USA 0, Real Salt Lake 1
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio 11
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Heath Pearce (Laurent Courtois, 61), Michael Umaña (Mariano Trujillo, 46), David Junior Lopes, Ante Jazic; Nick La Brocca, Simon Elliott (Marcos Mondaini, 72), Blair Gavin, Jorge Flores; Alejandro Moreno, Juan Pablo Angel. Unused subs: Justin Braun, Chris Cortez, Zach Thornton, Ben Zemanski.
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran; Arturo Alvarez (Chris Schuler, 32), Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (Andy Williams, 86), Will Johnson; Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola.
Yellow cards: Beckerman 73, Lopes 79. Red card: Borchers 24.
Referee: Kevin Stott. Att.: 14,127.