Saturday, April 23, 2011
CHIVAS USA: A dramatic first victory
By Scott French
It took six games, 85 minutes and one fortuitous rebound, but Chivas USA -- and rookie head coach Robin Fraser -- are winless no more.
Mariano Trujillo trundled home after San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch made a diving slap of Justin Braun's blast with about five minutes to go, lifting the Goats to a 2-1 victory over the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.
“The win was going to come. I never thought that I was going go my whole career without a win,” Fraser told media after he moved within 140 victories of all-time MLS leader Sigi Schmid, Seattle's head coach. “I’m happy for the guys because they’ve worked incredibly hard and have been scrutinized up and down. For them to get their first win on the road, it was a huge testament to what they’ve done.”
Alejandro Moreno scored in first-half stoppage -- or received credit for a Heath Pearce goal from a free kick -- as Chivas (1-2-3) rallied from an early deficit with an impressive triumph in a match full of incidence and, for the Goats, opportunity.
Chivas, which had scored just once in its previous four MLS matches -- and not at all in the past two -- dictated play most of the match and created more than a half-dozen solid scoring chances, hitting a post and forcing the oft-brilliant Busch to make three enormous saves.
A quick look at Chivas' victory:
BEST PLAYER: Heath Pearce probably is Chivas USA's MVP at this point, so agile has handled the switch to central defense. He was impeccable in the back Saturday, governing the Goats' effort in denying the Quakes any kind of attacking presence, set pieces aside, until Ryan Johnson came off the bench in the 64th minute.
Pearce has such a good foot that he can play-make out of the back to some extent, and his dead-ball work was, well, deadly. He was responsible for the first goal, whether he ends up with credit for the goal or an assist, with a superb free kick that bounced inside the left post.
And he nearly had another 13 minutes, arcing a long free kick, maybe 40 yards, toward the upper-left corner. Busch had to backpedal to grab it and his momentum took him into the net. The goalkeeper was heady enough to hold the ball outside then goal as he caught he balance upon backing into the left post. Had he been a step toward the middle, he carries the ball over the line.
Also impressive: Zarek Valentin, more assured and effective at right back than in the middle, was solid defensively and played a key role on the winning goal. … Moreno battled gamely from start to finish and nearly fed a Nick LaBrocca goal. … Braun had one great moment, but it was the biggest moment of the season so far.
Wondolowski was a handful for the Quakes, and better placement off a free kick and with a shot inside the box might have meant a hat trick. Johnson provided life to San Jose's attack, and Steven Lenhart made for a scary few last minutes on balls pumped into Chivas' box.
Best of all for the Earthquakes was Busch. He made two sensational saves, a flying stop on LaBrocca's snap header at the right post in the 29th minute and a foot save on Jorge Flores in the 58th. Had Trujillo not been in place for the winner, that would have been a terrific save, too.
BEST GOAL: Pearce's, no question. Oh, hold on a sec … they're giving it to Moreno? Watch the replay -- can you see any contact between Moreno's head and the ball? I don't. And I'm guessing Pearce might receive credit when the league watches the tape next week.
No matter who scored it, it was sweet -- a perfectly angled free kick from the right flank that just cleared the scrum of players in the box (or nicked ever-so-slightly off Moreno's pate) and bounced inside the far post. It came in the first minute of stoppage, sending the Goats into halftime with confidence, pivotal for a team that hadn't previously won.
Even sweeter for Chivas was Trujillo's, which was pretty nice, too. A clearance is fed to Valentin, who sends the ball up the right channel for Braun, who takes it into the box and fends off Ramiro Corrales just before firing toward the far post. Busch dives to his right to palm the ball away, but he puts it directly onto Trujillo's path, and he carries it home.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Not many on this day. You can quibble with the Goats' reaction to Bobby Convey's corner kick that led to San Jose's goal in the 16th minute -- someone needed to step up and clear it or win a header, but nice finish by Wondolowski -- but isn't a comeback victory, captured in the closing minutes, all the more satisfying for a first win?
Chivas was, as it has been in nearly every game this season, the superior side, holding more and better possession, creating many more goal opportunities and doing a fine job to limit Simon Dawkins' effectiveness and San Jose's ability to attack. A team that had scored just once in its past 454 minutes of competitive soccer could have scored a half-dozen and ought to be disappointed they didn't get three or four.
WORTH NOTING: Trujillo's goal was the first of his 51-game MLS career. … Ben Zemanski nearly gave Chivas a 14th-minute lead, heading off the base of the right post from 13 yards from a Jorge Flores cross. … Late defensive sub Michael Umaņa, a starter last year, saw his first league action of the season. … Yorba Linda's Lenhart made his Earthquakes debut.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “We got the monkey off our back. We still have a lot of games left, so it’s not like we can say that we’ve got our win and now we can relax,” Fraser said. “Let’s keep it in perspective. It's one win. There are a lot of teams in this league that have four wins already. We still have a lot of work to do.”
NEXT: April 30 vs. New England at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (TV: Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
Buck Shaw Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch; Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Brandon McDonald, Ramiro Corrales; Simon Dawkins (Steven Lenhart, 80), Sam Cronin, Khari Stephenson (Anthony Ampaipitakwong, 55), Bobby Convey; Chris Wondolowski, Scott Sealy (Ryan Johnson, 64).
San Jose Earthquakes 1, Chivas USA 2
SJ -- Chris Wondolowski (Khari Stephenson, Ramiro Corrales) 16
C -- Alejandro Moreno (Heath Pearce) 46+
C -- Mariano Trujillo 85
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Andy Boyens, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Simon Elliott, Ben Zemanski (Mariano Trujillo, 61), Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores (Michael Umaņa, 88); Marcos Mondaini (Justin Braun, 60), Alejandro Moreno. Unused subs: Victor Estupiņan, Gerson Mayen, Francisco Mendoza, Zach Thornton.
Yellow card: Cronin 21.
Referee: Jair Marrufo. Att.: 10,525 (sellout).