CARSON -- Another mostly good defensive performance again went for naught for Chivas USA, which conceded few chances but created even fewer and paid for a mistake in a 1-0 defeat Saturday night to the visiting Colorado Rapids.
The reigning MLS Cup champs, with neither Omar Cummings (off with Jamaica's national team) nor Conor Casey (tightness in his calf) in the starting XI for the first time since October 2008 -- a span of 67 league games -- managed just two scoring opportunities, and Quincy Amarikwa made the first count, finishing a counterattack in the 32nd minute for the only goal.
Colorado (2-0-0), which is atop the Western Conference standings with archrival Real Salt Lake, has posted shutout victories in its last four games against the Goats and has won four of the last five meetings at Home Depot Center.
A quick look at Chivas' loss:
BEST PLAYER: Take your pick from these three Rapids: central midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, left back Anthony Wallace or center back Drew Moor.
Larentowicz was a force in the middle for Colorado, more so defensively, his energy key as Chivas (0-2-0) failed to penetrate despite decent stretches of possession. Wallace made several big plays and kept whichever winger he was matched up with -- Marcos Mondaini, so good in the Goats' season-opening loss to Sporting Club Kansas City, and Justin Braun -- from making impacts. Moor was nearly perfect in the middle, anchoring a superb defensive effort that had the Rapids in charge from the start.
Best for the Goats? We'll go with central midfielder Nick LaBrocca, who won balls and distributed nicely, playing major roles when Chivas kept possession in the first half and applied pressure in the second.
BEST GOAL: There was only one, and it wasn't a very good one, from Chivas' viewpoint. Blame another defensive breakdown: The Goats' backline was pushed forward, failed to corral Jamie Smith on the left flank, and his ball toward the box for Amarikwa to run onto found gaping space.
Amarikwa, held onside by novice center back Ben Zemanski, needed one touch to push the ball past goalkeeper Zach Thornton, sliding out of his box, and another to put it in the open net.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Got to feel bad for Blair Gavin, whose testy left hamstring failed him again. The second-year midfielder, perhaps Chivas' most creative player, went down in the 28th minute after a challenge by Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni.
Gavin fell face first on the turf, clutching at the hamstring, which was first hurt last August and, after two two setbacks during rehab, forced an abrupt end to his rookie season. He tweaked it again during preseason but was healthy enough to come off the bench last week and make it into the starting lineup against Colorado.
He walked gingerly to the locker room, leaving Chivas with just 10 men until Mariano Trujillo had stretched enough to take over -- a span of about four minutes, during which Amarikwa netted Colorado's goal.
Gavin will undergo an MRI exam to assess damage, but it's highly unlikely he'll join the Goats for their trip this week to Portland (for a U.S. Open Cup game) and on to Toronto (for next weekend's league encounter).
WORTH NOTING: Victor Estupiñan made his MLS debut up front but received little support and continually drifted deep in search of the ball. … Michael Lahoud, making his first appearance of the season, was solid at holding midfielder and made one big stop, saving a Larentowicz blast off the goal line in the 54th minute. … Amarikwa, who is from Bakersfield and played at UC Davis, was making just his fourth MLS start. English newcomer Caleb Folan, in his league debut, was his partner up front after Rapids coach Gary Smith held out Casey after a pregame fitness test. Casey came on in the 79th minute. … Jimmy Conrad again wore the captain's armband, but no official word yet that he is the captain.
NEXT: Tuesday at Portland Timbers in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier. Next MLS match is next Saturday at Toronto FC, 10 a.m. PT (TV: Prime Ticket).
Home Depot Center, Carson
Chivas USA 0, Colorado Rapids 1
C -- Quincy Amarikwa (Jamie Smith) 32
Chivas USA: Zach Thornton; Heath Pearce, Ben Zemanski, Jimmy Conrad, Ante Jazic (Tristan Bowen, 76); Michael Lahoud; Marcos Mondaini (Francisco Mendoza, 64), Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin (Mariano Trujillo, 32), Justin Braun; Victor Estupiñan. Unused subs: Jorge Flores, Dan Kennedy, Gerson Mayen, Seth Owusu.
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace; Brian Mullan (Ross LaBauex, 90), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith; Quincy Amarikwa (Wells Thompson, 69), Caleb Folan (Conor Casey, 79).
Yellow cards: Mullan 39, Zemanski 72, Braun 78, Pickens 79, Wallace 81, Casey 89, Mastroeni 96+.
Referee: Terry Vaughn. Att.: 13,027.