CHIVAS USA: A shutout to build upon

Chivas midfielder Nick LaBrocca said Saturday's shutout of Columbus is something to build on. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

CARSON, Calif. -- Let's start with the one really big plus for Chivas USA from its scoreless draw Saturday night against Columbus at Home Depot Center: the shutout.

The Goats kept their foe out of the nets for the first time this season, were fortunate to do so, and that was reward enough on a night where the energy and the means to break down the Crew's packed-in defense was lacking.

“A shutout's good,” midfielder Nick LaBrocca noted after Chivas (0-2-2) picked up its second point of the season. “That's definitely something we wanted to get out of this game. That's No. 1. Obviously, with a win, but you've got to start somewhere, I guess, and a shutout's huge. Something to definitely build on.”

Another fine performance by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, getting his third successive start, alleviated individual errors by the Goats that fueled a Columbus counterattack that caused problems, especially when Emilio Renteria was running at the Goats' defense.

The Crew managed just two decent chances, both from counters, but rookie Zarek Valentin got a foot in to knock the ball from Renteria on the doorstep in the 57th minute and Kennedy just got a piece of Eddie Gaven's blast from just outside the box, sending it inches wide of the right post.

Chivas also had two opportunities, both off corner kicks. The first, on a counter in the 79th following a Crew corner, had Alejandro Moreno feed Justin Braun on the right flank, and his first-time cross into the box found LaBrocca, who volleyed left-footed at Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Heath Pearce's header from Gerson Mayen's corner in the 90th got past Hesmer, but Dilly Duka stepped off the goal line to clear it easily.

“We feel like at times we've been good enough to win games and probably let a few games get away from us,” coach Robin Fraser said. “Tonight, we probably could have stolen the game, or they could have stolen the game. I felt like maybe we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be, and at the end, maybe a draw is a fair result.”

A quick look at Chivas' draw:

BEST PLAYER: Columbus defender Chad Marshall, from Riverside, is off to a terrific start, and the Goats were overmatched in their duels with the big center back. Sure, Chivas might have gotten more had their energy been comparable to that against Toronto last week, but the Crew have conceded nearly nothing while posting three successive shutouts, and Marshall has been a big reason for that.

For Chivas, Kennedy was the clear hero, expertly dealing with crosses all night -- and then that save on Gaven, the biggest of the game.

BEST GOAL: Ha! This game certainly could have used a goal, especially in a first half that was short on entertainment value. A Goats goal would have forced Columbus out of its shell; a Crew strike might have elicited a better response from Chivas. Either would have made for a better match.

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Chivas has been shut out in three of its last four games, including the U.S. Open Cup qualifier in Portland, and there's still no sign that anyone up top is capable of scoring goals. Braun, who led the team with nine last year, had been sharp the past couple of games after missing most of preseason through energy, but he wasn't an issue with Marshall marking him.

Moreno is so good at doing the little things that open space and create chances for teammates, but he was invisible most of the night, too. The energy deficiency played a role, certainly, but a scorer needs to emerge -- and soon.

“I felt like Columbus played like a team on the road,” Fraser said. “They were willing to get behind the ball and give us lots of possession in front of them, and I think for the first half we were too willing to take that possession in front of them instead of being aggressive and getting at them, getting between them and getting behind them.

“It's just a little disappointing, but I think it's a lesson for our team as well that we are a team that requires a good, energetic start. We are a team that's going to rely on playing an up-tempo game.”

WORTH NOTING: Valentin, who just returned from the U.S. under-20s' failed World Cup qualifying run in Guatemala, made what Fraser called “atypical” mistakes that led to Crew counters. “You look at that and you start to wonder how much fatigue is wearing on him ...” the coach said. “I think today there were a few lessons to be learned, and some he picked up on, and some he didn't quite so well.”

END OF A STREAK: Chivas had won its home game the past five seasons against Columbus, which is winless at Home Depot Center since September 2005. Fraser, asked about it, said: “Obviously, they beat [Chivas in 2005], I played for that Crew team.” Laughter followed. “That is a complete joke,” Fraser added. “I don't even remember that game, to be honest.”

NEXT: April 16 at Vancouver, 4 p.m. (TV: Prime Ticket)


Home Depot Center (Carson)

Chivas USA 0, Columbus Crew 0Dan Kennedy; Michael Lahoud, Zarek Valentin, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Ben Zemanski; Nick LaBrocca, Marcos Mondaini (Gerson Mayen, 68), Jorge Flores (Victor Estupiñan, 80); Justin Braun, Alejandro Moreno. Unused subs: Andy Boyens, Francisco Mendoza, Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo, Michael Umaña.

Chivas USA:

Columbus Crew: Will Hesmer; Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan; Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns, Dejan Rusmir, Robbie Rogers; Emmanuel Ekpo (Dilly Duka, 72), Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann, 78).

Yellow cards: Mondaini 35, James 55, Valentin 59, Burns 64, Flores 65, Miranda 81, LaBrocca 86, Lahoud 87.

Referee: Yader Reyes. Att.: 13,385.