Los Angeles Soccer: Alvaro Fernandez

CHIVAS USA: Season ends in defeat

October, 22, 2011

Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesThe Seattle Sounders gave Chivas USA a fitting end to their disappointing season with a 3-1 drubbing.

Robin Fraser's first season in charge of Chivas USA ended as it started, in defeat, with the Goats dropping a spot in the standings and failing to surpass last year's victory total.

The Seattle Sounders, preparing for its playoff run, scored three second-half goals en route to a 3-1 triumph Saturday night at Home Depot Center, a deserved victory that sets up a first-round playoff series, starting next weekend, against Real Salt Lake.

Fraser and his staff now embark on postseason assessments, selecting which 11 players to protect before next month's Major League Soccer expansion draft, determining which players to invite back (and which to jettison), and taking the initial steps toward the 2012 season following an 8-14-12 campaign.

The loss, coupled with San Jose's victory over FC Dallas, sends the Goats from seventh to eighth in the Western Conference table, two points behind the Earthquakes and eight in front of last-place Vancouver. Chivas fell from 14th to 15th in the overall standings.

An Andrew Boyens own goal and fine finishes by Alvaro Fernandez and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa sent Seattle to a three-goal lead. Victor Estupiņan's header -- after Marcos Mondaini nodded back into the goalmouth a Mariano Trujillo cross from the right flank to the far post -- ended the Sounders' shutout bid in the 83rd minute.

Seattle (18-7-9), which finished second in the Supporters' Shield and Western standings to the Galaxy, suffered a potentially damning blow just five minutes into the game, when Ben Zemanski knocked knees with league MVP candidate Mauro Rosales, who just returned from an MCL sprain.

Rosales was stretchered off, holding his face in his hands, and pulled from the game (and Zemanski was yellow-carded, the first of several dubious decisions by overmatched referee Ricardo Salazar). Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said on the Sounders' telecast that he didn't think the injury was “as bad as last time.”

“It's a little more precaution than anything else,” he said. “Obviously, you're on high alert and you're concerned. Going into the game, you don't want anything [injury-wise] to happen, so that's important.”

A quick look at Chivas' defeat:

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CHIVAS USA: Needed help arrives in tie

August, 13, 2011
If big defensive plays, heroic kind of stuff, wasn't going to be enough Saturday afternoon for Chivas USA -- and it sure didn't look like it would be -- the Goats got the help they required from an unexpected source.

Chivas USA withstood one penalty kick and might have been doomed by another, but referee Kevin Stott's decisions at critical moments clearly favored the Goats.

It enabled them to claim a share of the points following an often sizzling 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders in front of 36,364 at CenturyLink Field, a result that kept Chivas (7-8-9) in the No. 10 spot on Major League Soccer's overall table, the last playoff slot. Houston, in 11th, can leapfrog the Goats with a win Sunday over Portland.

Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and defender Michael Umaņa played hero for Chivas, making massive defensive plays to deny the Sounders should-be goals, as the Goats' failure to create scoring opportunities from decent possession nearly proved costly.

Kennedy made two big stops, Umaņa made another, and the backline continually cleared the area to prevent Seattle from turning its chances into shots.

“We don't want to rely on individuals to make unbelievable plays,” Fraser said. “We want to be solid as a team, and in that respect, we certainly didn't feel we were good enough in the second half. We needed some very, very key individual plays, individual moments.”

The game turned on two penalty decisions, the first against the Goats and the second, a no-call, securing for them the draw. Both went Chivas' way.

The Sounders were awarded a spot kick in the 18th minute when Alvaro Fernandez lifted the ball into Umaņa's hand -- the correct call, although Chivas thought Fernandez should have been whistled for a hand ball when he pulled down a cross before dribbling into the Goats' box.

Kennedy couldn't stop Fernandez's penalty, guessing right (and diving to his right) to cover every inch to the lower-left post. The rolling shot was just beyond him, struck the post, rebounded back, hit Kennedy in the upper back and ricocheted wide of the post.

“I knew I had a great jump. I thought it was going wide,” Kennedy said. “Then I heard it clank off the post, and it hit me so quickly. It took me a fraction of a second to figure out it went wide.”

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Galaxy superiority: 3 reasons L.A. won

November, 8, 2010
Here are three reasons the Galaxy dominated Seattle in the second leg of their first-round playoff series Sunday night, using a 2-1 victory for a 3-1 aggregate advantage that sends them to next Sunday's Western Conference final at the Home Depot Center.

1. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: L.A.'s smart, gritty -- Seattle coach Sigi Schmid called it “grisly,” although he might have meant “grizzled” -- approach to both legs of the series made the difference. They neutralized the Sounders' speedy flank game by shutting off wingers Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi (great work, again, by Sean Franklin and Eddie Lewis) and gave central midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Nathan Sturgis no room to work.

The backline was superb, but it's a team effort all over the field, and the efforts by Landon Donovan and David Beckham -- in assisting Franklin and Lewis with their assignments, but also in pinching in and teaming with Juninho and Dema Kovalenko to clog passing lanes and destroy options -- was inspirational.

The Galaxy's first hour is as good a primer on team defense you'll ever find.

2. QUICK STRIKES: Seattle had to score to stay alive, and they weren't going to find it easy the way the Galaxy's defense was playing and the kind of form goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts is in. So when L.A. added to its 1-0 advantage from last week's first leg, with Edson Buddle's header from Beckham's corner kick, the Sounders' task became much harder.

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