CHIVAS: New-look reserves share points
CARSON -- Neither of Chivas USA's center backs Monday morning was under contract, and one of them hadn't played competitively in months -- focused more on his UCLA degree and keeping up with two young sons.
One winger played on the indoor Anaheim Splash's reserve team last winter, and his replacement's experience is primarily in the minor leagues of Germany and the Netherlands. Neither are under contract.
Add in a couple of Chivas Academy stars -- high-schoolers, really -- and the Goats produced a most experimental lineup for their MLS Reserve League clash with Portland. They came out of it with a point -- rookie Casey Townsend and German trialist Sebastian Stachnik scored goals in an entertaining 2-2 draw in Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium -- and, more important, without having to expend much first-team energy.
Chivas is through one of four games in a grueling 11-day stretch, facing a critical Major League Soccer showdown Wednesday against Montreal, and the last thing it needs is to find minutes for players. There are enough meaningful minutes to spread around.
“For sure, we have a game in two days and another three days after that. And the [U.S.] Open Cup game next week,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “We have a busy schedule and are trying to manage the schedule for everyone involved.”
Only six first-team players saw action, and among them, only wingers Laurent Courtois and Ryan Smith, who came on in the second half, can be considered major contributors.
All three trialists in camp -- Stachnik, center back Bobby Burling and Brazilian winger (and former Spash reserve) Tiago Luzardi -- were given roles, and Academy midfielder Eric Gonzalez (Corona/Santiago HS) and forward Ben Spencer made their Reserve League starts since last year.
Also on hand was MLS veteran Nelson Akwari, who has played for the MetroStars, Columbus, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver (when it was a second-division team) before returning to UCLA last year to complete his education. He doubled up in the L.A. Blues' backline last season, but this year has been about school (he's two years from an engineering degree) and family.
“I finished my quarter on Friday at UCLA and have a week off before summer school starts,” said Akwari, who was solid if a tad rusty over 90 minutes. “I just gave Robin a call, said, 'Hey, you guys ever need an extra body.' ... There's a lot of games coming up pretty soon, and they've got some reserve games, too, so they asked me to come on out, and I said sure.”
Fraser played with Akwari eight years ago in Columbus, and he used the Texan in a Reserve League game last October, after the Blues' season was done. “We just wanted to take a look at him,” he said. “We need numbers for these games, and he was available. We're happy to have him. I thought he did a very good job for us.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Both Chivas goals canceled deficits. Townsend first-timed a low Scott Gordon cross in the 29th minute, and Stachnik powerfully half-volleyed a Courtois corner kick in the 69th. Sebastian Rincon's nifty redirection from UCLA/Chivas alum Sal Zizzo's ball through the goalmouth gave Portland a 13th-minute lead, and rookie Brent Richards finished a Ryan Kawulok feed 13 minutes into the second half.
Tim Melia made three fine saves, the best of them to parry a Zizzo free kick off the crossbar in the 56th minute. Luzardi hit the post for Chivas, and Freddie Braun struck the crossbar near the end -- he was flagged offside, but referee Daniel Radford let play go on as Chivas was transitioning into attack.
Richards was superb for Portland, clearly Man of the Match. He twice schooled Gordon on first-half runs into the box, had a superb finish on his goal, just cleared the crossbar with a stunning left-footed volley in the 60th minute, then forced a Melia save with a well-taken header.
WORTH NOTING: Bright Dike, who is playing for the L.A. Blues on loan from Portland, came on for the Timbers with about 20 minutes to go. He has four goals in six games for the Blues, including the lone strikes in victories Friday and Sunday over Dayton. ... John Alexander Valencia played the second half at right back, his first appearance as something other than a central defender. ... Academy midfielder Anthony Dheming made his Reserve League debut, coming on in the 68th minute for Jorge Villafaņa. Dheming (Gardena/Ellington HS) was on the game-day roster for the Reserve League draw with San Jose on June 8. ... Would Akwari like to get back into the league? Oh, yeah. “Any chance to get back into MLS, I want to take,” he said.
MLS RESERVE LEAGUE
Home Depot Center Track and Field Stadium (Carson)
Chivas USA 2, Portland Timbers 2
P -- Sebastian Rincon (Sal Zizzo) 13
C -- Casey Townsend (Scott Gordon) 29
P -- Brent Richards (Ryan Kawulok) 58
C -- Sebastian Stachnik (Laurent Courtois) 69
Portland Timbers: Joe Bendik; Ryan Kawulok, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Steve Purdy, Chris Taylor; Sal Zizzo (Charles Rincon, 62), Freddie Braun, Eric Alexander (Lovel Palmer, 81), Sebastian Rincon; Brent Richards, Mike Fucito (Bright Dike, 72). Unused subs: Mamadou Danso, Jake Gleeson.
Yellow card: Fucito 37.
Referee: Daniel Radford. Att.: c. 100.
1. Galaxy 3-1-1 (9-7 GF-GA) 10 points
2. Vancouver 3-2-1 (8-10) 10
3. Chivas USA 2-1-2 (10-7) 8
4. Portland 2-3-1 (9-7) 7
5. San Jose 1-2-2 (5-7) 5
6. Seattle 1-3-1 (6-9) 4