Chivas USA should have gotten more from its early dominance in Tuesday's night's U.S. Open Cup clash, but that's to be expected. The Goats have a knack for not taking advantage of their chances -- or not creating chances from their possession.
They got one goal, a beautiful header from Juan Agudelo, and then ran into some fortune at the finish, and so they'll play on into the quarterfinals of the 99-year-old knockout tournament, and do so at home.
Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage to deliver a 2-1 third-round triumph over the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C. The Goats advance to a June 26 final-eight matchup with the Charlotte Eagles, a third-tier side from the USL Pro that beat the second-division San Antonio Scorpions, 2-1, in overtime.
Chivas' victory was neither simple nor particularly impressive, at least not after the break.
“I thought we started well,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “We created quite a few chances, were able to put them on their heels. We probably didn't do well enough with our opportunities early on. ... We came out the second half and didn't put together a whole lot, but real credit to the group for coming out with a lot of resiliency after their goal.”
The Goats looked good in the first half, moving the ball swiftly through Peter Vagenas in midfield and feeding off a sensational first half-hour, especially, from Agudelo. The big teenager's movement flummoxed the RailHawks, and his strength overpowered them.
He generated several opportunities -- the best: setting up Laurent Courtois to fire just over the crossbar in the 16th minute, firing to force a tough save by former FC Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse a minute later, nodding a cross that Burse somehow kept out in the 25th -- and should have scored in the 18th, when he delayed his shot and the opening disappeared.
Agudelo tallied in the 31st from a Courtois cross with a sharp, glancing header from the edge of the 6-yard box across the goalmouth and into the right-post netting.
“He was finding a lot of good spaces,” Fraser said. “He was very, very difficult for them to deal with, running in behind, holding off guys, running at guys. That activity was very important for us.”
Charlotte, a second-division team from the North American Soccer League that ousted the Galaxy from the tournament a week ago, took charge in the second half, pressuring the Goats higher up the field and finding its way into the Chivas box. Mike Palacio, formerly with the New York Red Bulls, scored the equalizer for Carolina in 78th minute, running onto a loose ball in the box about 50 seconds after coming off the bench, and the match appeared bound for overtime until Gale Agbossoumonde's late error.
The U.S. under-23 national team defender, on loan to the RailHawks from Portuguese club Estoril Praia, slid to cut off Angel in the second minute of stoppage -- and he kept sliding right on past on the moist turf, catching the ball with his arm and pulling it away from Angel.
Referee Ted Unkel pointed to the spot, and the RailHawks railed against the call, but the infraction was obvious, and Angel's blast inside the left post found Burse going the other way.
“Everyone's going to have their opinion,” Fraser said. “If you've fought back into the game, you're never going to be happy to see it end like that.”
Chivas was ecstatic with the result, philosophic about the performance and encouraged by the deeper implications.
“I thought we played well in spurts, but overall it wasn't a dominating performance, by any stretch of the imagination,” center back Danny Califf said. “We pulled it out at the end. Going forward, these are games we'll be able to look back on and establish a winning mentality for winning even though you didn't play your best.”
U.S. OPEN CUP
WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, N.C.)
Carolina RailHawks 1, Chivas USA 2
CUSA -- Juan Agudelo (Laurent Courtois) 31
Caro -- Mike Palacio 78
CUSA -- Juan Pablo Angel pen. 93+
Carolina RailHawks: Ray Burse; Cory Elenio, Gale Agbossoumonde, Austen King, Kupono Low; Matt Zimmerman (Mike Palacio, 78), Amir Lowery, Breiner Ortiz (Ty Shipalane, 68), Austin da Luz; Zack Schilawski, Brian Shriver. Unused subs: Brian Ackley, Jamie Finch, Akira Fitzgerald, John Krause, Nick Millington.
Chivas USA: Tim Melia; Scott Gordon, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Scott Gordon; Blair Gavin (Ryan Smith, 83), Peter Vagenas, Laurent Courtois (Ben Zemanski, 63); Alejandro Moreno, Jose Erik Correa (Juan Pablo Angel, 70), Juan Agudelo. Unused subs: Dan Kennedy, Cesar Romero, John Alexander Valencia.
Yellow cards: Low 35, Gavin 37, Ortiz 48, Lowery 55, Riley 74, Smith 94+.
Referee: Ted Unkel. Att.: 7,117.