OPEN CUP: Chivas holds off Fusion
VENTURA -- The way its Major League Soccer brethren were dropping games left and right, Chivas USA couldn't be too disappointed after capturing its U.S. Open Cup opener Tuesday night, even if the performance left plenty to be desired.
The Goats got an early goal, from Cesar Romero, and withstood heavy pressure at times to pull out a 1-0 victory over the Ventura County Fusion and advance to a fourth-round meeting next week in North Carolina.
The Fusion, an amateur powerhouse from the Premier Development League -- and featuring former Chivas midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and two players, Kennedy Chongo and Daniel Steres, who were with the Goats during preseason -- were the better side much of the night but couldn't beat Tim Melia, the No. 2 goalkeeper, despite creating more opportunities than Chivas.
“In a single-elimination tournament, the most important thing is to win, and these games are tough,” Goats coach Robin Fraser said. “The 'underdog' really treats it like it's a huge game, and certainly we need to as well, but as you can tell by tonight with seven teams losing in the MLS, these are difficult games.
“So to come out and win and move onto the next round is the most important thing.”
An expected SuperClasico showdown with the Galaxy was dead before kickoff -- L.A. was one of seven MLS clubs to lose against lower-division competition -- so Chivas has a date next Tuesday in Cary, N.C., with the Carolina RailHawks.
“[Playing the Galaxy] is what we expected,” said Chivas winger Ryan Smith, an Englishman, “but this is like the F.A. Cup back home. You don't know who's going to win because it's who turns up on the day. I'm glad L.A. are out.”
Chivas managed only a couple of chances and tested Ventura's goalkeeper, UCLA's Earl Edwards, only once, on Romero's 13th-minute goal. He took a through ball from Juan Agudelo, and his low shot nutmegged Edwards from right of the net.
It was Romero's first goal for Chivas' first team, but his 12th in all for Chivas, including preseason, MLS Reserve League and reserve friendlies.
“I’ve been knocking on the door [of the first team],” said Romero, who has played sparingly the past six week. “Every day is a new day for me, and every day I train and work hard for the main goal which is to start on the first team.”
The Goats had several first-choice players and a powerful partnership up front, with Agudelo and Juan Pablo Angel, but they couldn't turn their possession into opportunities, which has defined their season this year. The Fusion, who upset one set of pros last week, beating the L.A. Blues in overtime, were far more dangerous despite missing their best striker, Hawthorne's Gyassi Zardes, who has a Tuesday night class at Cal State Bakersfield that he can't miss.
“We think this is an important tournament,” Chivas left back Jorge Villafaņa said. “That's why we put in the big guns.”
Ventura's guns were more dangerous. Travis Bowen, Chivas forward Tristan's brother, was a handful all night, but he and Francisco Lopez put most of their chances just past the post.
Said Agudelo: “[Ventura] didn't seem like an amateur team.”
“You know, we have to give them credit,” Smith said. “They played really well. ... Today's performance, it wasn't that great, but it wasn't that bad. We got the goal, and we won. There's been some pretty bad results tonight across the MLS. We're lucky to be one of the teams that's come out on top.”
Fusion head coach Ole Mikkelsen, who had to watch from a booth atop the Ventura College stands after he was ejected from last week's win, was pleased with his team's performance.
“I feel proud of the boys and sad for the boys,” he said. “I thought we created some chances that could have made the game even more interesting. It only required one goal to make it more interesting, but it wasn't meant to be today. ... I wouldn't say we were under pressure in the way you would expect from an MLS team, but that's the way it is. Can't win them all.”
Chivas had won its opener in the 99-year-old tournament just once in its first seven season, when it reached the semifinals in 2010. Fewer MLS clubs in the field, theoretically, makes advancing -- and possibly winning the trophy -- a simpler task, no?
“That is 100 percent not true,” Fraser said. “I think every year you see teams that aren't in MLS that get close to getting to the final or being in the final. It's always a dogfight to get there. There are no gimmes.”
U.S. OPEN CUP
Ventura County Fusion 0, Chivas USA 1
C -- Cesar Romero (Juan Agudelo) 13
Chivas USA: Tim Melia; Scott Gordon, John Alexander Valencia (Danny Califf, 83), Rauwshan McKenzie, Jorge Villafaņa; Cesar Romero (Alejandro Moreno, 46), Peter Vagenas, Blair Gavin, Ryan Smith (Laurent Courtois, 46); Juan Pablo Angel, Juan Agudelo. Unused subs: Jose Erik Correa, Patrick McLain, James Riley, Alejandro Moreno.
Yellow cards: Gordon 46+, Daly 60, Chongo 64, Chavez 89.
Referee: Jesus Cisneros. Att.: c. 2,800.