Los Angeles Soccer: Laurent Courtois
CARSON -- Chivas USA on Saturday night offered more of the same thing it's been offering all season long: solid defense, not enough chances -- not nearly enough goals.
None, in fact. The scoreless draw with Vancouver, a most reasonable result, was the sixth time the Goats have been shut out in 10 Major League Soccer home games this season, and coach Robin Fraser's dissection of the match had a familiar ring to it.
Chivas (5-7-5, 20 points) came close to scoring four times in the final 20 minutes after creating virtually nothing for the first 70 in another frustrating evening in a season full of them.
“I thought we were probably too passive at the beginning of the game,” Fraser said, echoing his comments from several games past. “We want to be able to push the tempo and push the pace, but in the first half things were too slow. ... The second half I felt the urgency was much better. Certainly the second half of the second half, I thought it was very good.
“We created a number of chances. Ultimately, we need to be able to finish one of those. ... More than anything, we came out of it as a group realizing the urgency we saw in the second half is something we need to see more of.”
The Goats were fine defensively, preventing Vancouver (8-4-6, 30 points) from creating anything particularly dangerous. The Whitecaps used a numerical advantage in midfield, made more pronounced by defensive midfielder Oswaldo Minda's absence because of his second yellow card-accumulation suspension of the season, to find their way to Chivas' box four times in the first 15 minutes, but they, too, lacked urgency.
“We did have decent looks from the edge of the box and didn't shoot, so that was the biggest thing we talked about in the locker room,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. “If you have half a chance, you have to shoot. Even if it doesn't go in, it might deflect, it might come back off the goalkeeper. Who knows?”
Chivas matched up with Vancouver in the second half, switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1, and that was more of less it for the Whitecaps' offense. With rookie speedster Darren Mattocks sidelined with his own yellow-cards suspension, the 'Caps lacked the pace to stretch the Goats' superb backline.
The Colombian forward, returning from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him most of June, made up for his miscue by scoring two goals, including a dramatic stoppage-time winner, as Chivas USA overcame the pesky Charlotte Eagles to advance to the 99-year-old competition's semifinals for the second time in club history.
Correa headed home a Laurent Courtois free kick nearly four minutes into added time to deliver a 2-1 triumph at Cal State Fullerton and set up a July 10 date with three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders, a 1-0 winner over the San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders beat the Goats two years ago in the semifinals.
“This is huge ...,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser after the Goats' third one-goal victory in this Open Cup and the second in a row on a stoppage-time finish. “Sometimes the play's been good, sometimes the play's not been great, but at the end of the day, the team is finding ways to get results. That's going to serve you well in the long run.”
Correa also tallied in the 64th minute, finishing a through ball from Juan Agudelo that looked as if it would hold up until the end. Charlotte, a third-division side that beat FC Dallas in a third-round game nearly a month ago, pulled even in the 89th minute when Mauricio Salles knocked home the remains of a Jorge Herrera shot that James Riley slid in to block.
“It goes to show you waste some really big chances and you let the team stay in it, they’re going to fight until the very end,” said center back Danny Califf, who wore the captain's armband. “We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, especially in the second half. We weren’t able to hold the ball, we didn’t finish our attacks very well, they were able to get rebounds and come at us with numbers.
“It wasn’t pretty, but in the end it showed a lot of character. That’s two games in a row that we’ve done that, so we’d like to make it easier on ourselves, but a win is a win is a win.”
Correa clinically finished on the first, with Agudelo -- a late-first-half substitute for Miller Bolaņos, who retweaked his hamstring injury in his first game since May 23 -- feeding him after Courtois chested a Tim Melia clearance onto his path near midfield. The second was almost as nice, with Correa getting assistance from countryman Juan Pablo Angel to nod home Courtois' free kick from about 30 yards out on the right flank.
“I was arriving at that ball with not a lot of strength, and [Angel] pushed me from the back with a lot of strength,” Correa said through a translator. “The next thing I know, he yells, 'Goal!' and then I turn around. Practically, the whole strength on that goal was from him. He pushed me.”
CARSON -- Chivas USA has survived stiff tests from two lower-division teams to reach the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals for just the second time, and they know that's not about to change.
The Charlotte Eagles, the Goats' foe in Tuesday night's final-eight showdown at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium, have an air of destiny about them -- and a belief, tested and proved, they can handle whatever a Major League Soccer team throws at them.
The third-division club has shown it already, winning its first three matches in the 99th edition of America's longest-running soccer tournament on the road, in Texas, the last two against higher-division teams. The defining result: 2-0 over FC Dallas, the MLS club.
“We feel like we deserve to be here, because we've really put some good games together,” said Charlotte head coach Mark Steffens, whose team also beat second-tier San Antonio Scorpions in the fourth round. “Now if we added all of our play the whole season, I'd say, no, we don't deserve to be here. But the way we've played the second half of the season, it hasn't been a surprise winning a few big games.”
The Eagles, who are affiliated with Christian group Missionary Athletes International and, Steffens says, consider their religious mission more important than winning trophies, are ninth in the 11-team USL Pro with a 3-8-2 record (and a game at home Thursday against the L.A. Blues). They're 6-4-1, including the Open Cup wins, since the end of April, and the losses have come to the league's Nos. 1 and 3 teams and to longtime rival Richmond Kickers, a result they answered in a 4-1 romp a week and a half ago.
“Our turnaround has been defensively,” Steffens said. “So we're not going to do anything different than we've done [during a 4-2-1 run] the last six weeks. We're just working on defending and defending as a unit and getting behind the ball, so that's what we're going to do. If we can counter and get one [goal], it's always good to get ahead.”
Chivas, which made it to the semifinals two years ago, understands well Charlotte's approach. The Goats have had to battle to get past amateur powerhouse Ventura County Fusion in the third round, then needed a Juan Pablo Angel penalty kick in stoppage to beat second-tier Carolina RailHawks three weeks ago.
“In some respect, these games are harder than MLS games because you're playing guys who are salivating at the mouth, and that's always difficult,” said Chivas midfielder Peter Vagenas, who has won four Open Cups, twice with the Galaxy and twice with three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders. “You're playing teams that are desperate and have nothing to lose, and that's always difficult. ...
“By no means are we taking it lightly. The first two games were, quote-unquote, lesser opponents, and at some point they gave us everything we could handle, and we expect more of the same. We have to make sure that we match [their] intensity, and if we match [their] intensity -- this is no disrespect to them -- but certainly our soccer will prevail.”
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.
Chivas USA should have gotten more from its early dominance in Tuesday's night's U.S. Open Cup clash, but that's to be expected. The Goats have a knack for not taking advantage of their chances -- or not creating chances from their possession.
They got one goal, a beautiful header from Juan Agudelo, and then ran into some fortune at the finish, and so they'll play on into the quarterfinals of the 99-year-old knockout tournament, and do so at home.
Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage to deliver a 2-1 third-round triumph over the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C. The Goats advance to a June 26 final-eight matchup with the Charlotte Eagles, a third-tier side from the USL Pro that beat the second-division San Antonio Scorpions, 2-1, in overtime.
Chivas' victory was neither simple nor particularly impressive, at least not after the break.
“I thought we started well,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “We created quite a few chances, were able to put them on their heels. We probably didn't do well enough with our opportunities early on. ... We came out the second half and didn't put together a whole lot, but real credit to the group for coming out with a lot of resiliency after their goal.”
The Goats looked good in the first half, moving the ball swiftly through Peter Vagenas in midfield and feeding off a sensational first half-hour, especially, from Agudelo. The big teenager's movement flummoxed the RailHawks, and his strength overpowered them.
He generated several opportunities -- the best: setting up Laurent Courtois to fire just over the crossbar in the 16th minute, firing to force a tough save by former FC Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse a minute later, nodding a cross that Burse somehow kept out in the 25th -- and should have scored in the 18th, when he delayed his shot and the opening disappeared.
Agudelo tallied in the 31st from a Courtois cross with a sharp, glancing header from the edge of the 6-yard box across the goalmouth and into the right-post netting.
“He was finding a lot of good spaces,” Fraser said. “He was very, very difficult for them to deal with, running in behind, holding off guys, running at guys. That activity was very important for us.”
There's not a lot of sense in complicating the challenges facing Chivas USA, and midfielder Nick LaBrocca tends to get right to the point, as he did after the Goats' 4-0 disaster Saturday night at Colorado.
“We just need to start focusing on winning our home games and, obviously, scoring goals,” the 2011 MLS All-Star told media. “That’s basically what it comes down to for us.”
Eight games into its Major League Soccer campaign, Chivas' problems are all about making its chances more dangerous and finishing them, especially at home, where it has dropped all four outings by 1-0 scorelines.
The Goats (3-5-0) are masters of possession but struggle to turn that into something tangible. When they seem to nudge the door open -- like with Ryan Smith's crosses for Alejandro Moreno's and LaBrocca's headers to beat Portland three weeks ago -- it's quickly slammed shut. They've not found the net in 239 minutes, taking some 38 shots in that span.
They had 14 on Saturday, four of them on target, three of them worthy of something more: a blistering Laurent Courtois shot and Juan Pablo Angel's rebound just before halftime, both halted by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens, and Courtois' corner-kick header off the crossbar.
“We had some moments that were good, but we have to execute,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “We have to execute and we have to finish our opportunities when we get them, and this is the way the game works. If you don’t finish your chances, at times it comes back to haunt you. While there were some things that were good out of it, at the end of the day you have to look at the result and not be satisfied.”
The failure is particularly irksome in tight losses, in which Chivas has specialized since Fraser took charge. And this one was tight until the end, when the Rapids (4-4-0) exploited the space the Goats left as they pushed forward in search of an equalizer, counterattacking their way to three goals -- Kamani Hill's fine finish in the 82nd, a penalty kick won and converted by Jeff Larentowicz in the 84th and Hill's stoppage-time finale -- in the last dozen minutes.
“We were chasing the game late,” Fraser explained. “And when you're chasing the game, you throw a lot of numbers forward. Certainly, there's a bit of risk versus reward, I think, as you do that. And we opened ourselves up, and the score is probably, maybe not indicative of the entire game, but at the end of the day, the score is what is going to be remembered.”
Chivas USA's match Saturday night at Colorado was following form: decent ball movement, not enough chances, zero finishing and a fifth one-goal loss on the horizon.
The Rapids turned a tight clash into a farce at the finish, scoring three goals in the final dozen minutes to romp to a 4-0 triumph, a scoreline that reflects only the conclusion.
Three quick thoughts on the Goats' first loss in four road games:
- 1. NO OFFENSE
Chivas had better possession, as is customary, especially in the second half, and it unleashed 14 shots, four of them on target. Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens came up big a few times -- especially on diving back-to-back saves in the 30th minute against Laurent Courtois and Juan Pablo Angel -- and a Courtois header bounced off the underside of the crossbar in the 55th.
Ryan Smith offered a bit of life immediately after coming on about 15 minutes into the second half, his penetrating pass creating a chance Nick LaBrocca placed across the goalmouth and past the right post. Chivas could have used more from him.
CARSON -- The guest of honor stayed home after a small setback in his rehabilition from injury, so it was Juan Pablo Angel who took the spotlight, making his first start since opening day in Monday's MLS Reserve League match at Home Depot Center.
Steve Zakuani, the electrifying Seattle winger who has been sidelined a year since a gruesome tackle shattered his right leg, had targeted this one for his return to Major League Soccer action, but he pulled himself out of training Sunday and was left in Washington when the team traveled to L.A.
The Sounders pulled out a 4-3 victory without him, with Riverside's Sammy Ochoa scoring twice, including the winning goal in the 70th minute.
Angel scored on a penalty kick and assisted a Casey Townsend goal with a nifty pass, but Chivas twice gave away leads in an absorbing match, clearly the most entertaining played at HDC yet this year.
“We've been struggling scoring goals, so we put an emphasis on trying to get goals, create chances,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who grew up in Torrance and has won championships, among other places, with the Galaxy and at UCLA. “I think we did a good job, scoring four goals, and I think we had chances to maybe score eight.”
That approach led to end-to-end action. It was 1-1 by the 12th minute, the Sounders hit the post three times in the first 24 minutes, and at least three goals -- by Chivas' Laurent Courtois in the ninth minute, Townsend's go-ahead tally in the 59th, and a blistering first-time blast above the box by Sounders rookie (out of UCLA) Andy Rose to tie the score three minutes later -- featured first-class finishes.
CARSON -- There's an all-too-familiar quality to all of Chivas USA's matches this year, and that's not a good thing. Tremendous defensive work and decent possession, but few goalscoring chances, one breakdown and that's that.
It happened again Sunday night, when the Goats wasted another solid effort in their third 1-0 loss of the campaign, all at home. Sporting Kansas City took advantage of a letdown right after halftime, then fended off an increasingly direct Chivas attack to improve to 4-0-0, the only perfect record four weeks into the Major League Soccer campaign.
“It's frustrating. I'm frustrated. I know a lot of guys are frustrated,” defender Heath Pearce said after Chivas dropped to 1-3-0 to remain at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, behind the Galaxy only on goal difference. “We tried to find some positives in this game, and we've been saying for a while now that we have bright moments and stuff, but at the end of the day, bright moments aren't enough if we're not scoring goals and keeping clean sheets.
“I just feel like we make it really difficult on ourselves every single game.”
The Goats have zero margin for error. They've scored just once in four games -- rookie Casey Townsend's finish in last weekend's 1-0 stunner at Real Salt Lake -- so one breakdown or one superb play by the opposition is enough to destroy a firm foundation built on wonderful defending up and down the field.
That breakdown/superb play, a little of both, arrived in the 47th minute. Chivas failed to deal appropriately with a turnover at midfield, providing space for a long Graham Zusi run, almost to the top of the box. He unloaded from there, with the ball caroming off goalkeeper Dan Kennedy's outstretched hands and off the crossbar and high into the air. Zusi outleapt Ante Jazic for the header, sending the ball toward the left post, and C.J. Sapong tucked it home.
Chivas, which dominated the first half-hour but struggled to turn almost constant possession into penetration, went to a direct game from that point, lobbing balls over the top. There were chances, but just one that mattered: Nick LaBrocca hitting the left post following a Laurent Courtois run in the 54th minute.
“Our retention of possession needs to be a lot better,” said winger Ryan Smith, who with Laurent Courtois fueled Chivas' attack in the first half. “In the second half, we just kept giving it away. In the first half, we wasn't so bad, we got some chances, but I don't know what happened in the second half. We came out, they got the early goal, we didn't retain possession. That's key. If you don't have possession, you can't get into good areas. You can't just hit it and hope to get on the end of a long ball. Sometimes, you have to keep the ball, move the opposition around, then make a decisive pass or switch a play, but it just didn't happen in the second half.”
The Goats put only one shot on frame -- LaBrocca's off the post -- against a team that had surrendered just one shot on goal in two of its first three matches. They had another decent chance just before halftime, when James Riley chipped to Smith at the top of the box, but his touches, the first to pull away from Aurelien Collin and the next to avoid goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, took the Englishman beyond the end line.
The rookie's opportunistic half-volley in the 72nd minute and another exceptional performance in the back was enough for Chivas to claim a 1-0 triumph Saturday night over powerful Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah, a stirring upset that might be worth a lot more than three points.
The Goats survived a half-hour under relentless pressure in the first half and a late RSL push at the end to give Robin Fraser his first victory over his former club and Chivas its first win at Rio Tinto Stadium. The way they did so, and how they turned their first-half turmoil into a fine second-half performance, might prod them along the next step in their evolution under the second-year coach.
“I would like to think so,” Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles by phone when he was asked if he thought the victory might be a huge step forward. “In our tenure here, I don't think the results have gone that way for us in this sort of game. When times got tough tonight, our guys dug in and dug deep and defended like nothing else mattered. … These guys just fought, gritted and gutted out a victory.”
It wasn't particularly pretty, even with Chivas matching RSL's possession for long stretches of the second half. The Goats created just two real scoring chances -- Townsend's goal followed Peter Vagenas' half-volley and Rauwshan McKenzie's rebound, both knocked aside by Nick Rimando, from a 16th-minute corner kick -- and had to stave off nearly nonstop forays by RSL, which entered the game No. 1 in Major League Soccer's overall standings.
The Utahns (2-1-0) had nearly a dozen scoring opportunities, and at least half of them were good. Former RSL reserve McKenzie was outstanding -- his 42nd-minute takeaway in the box from Fabian Espindola was clinical -- and fellow center back Heath Pearce and right back James Riley were nearly as good. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was a difference-maker, diving to stop Espindola in the 22nd and 93rd minutes, dominant when coming off his line to attack crosses, a master of his box. He was, Rimando said, “why we had this result.”
Townsend delivered the knockout punch following the Goats' best sequence of the night. The final three passes were key: Ryan Smith threaded the ball through three defenders to give Nick LaBrocca space to head forward, LaBrocca put Ante Jazic into open territory on the left flank, and Jazic whipped a cross into the middle for the rookie to battle for against Rimando and big center back Chris Schuler.
Schuler was between Rimando, who leaped and had the ball in his hands, and Townsend, who applied the necessary physical pressure in the air. The RSL goalkeeper, a former UCLA star from Montclair, fumbled the ball. Townsend, the No. 5 overall selection in January's MLS SuperDraft, followed the ball with his eyes as it fell to the ground, instinctively kicking at it as it landed. The ball sailed hard and true into the net.
“For a first [professional] goal, it was obviously very cool,” said Townsend, who scored 17 last fall as a senior at the University of Maryland. “As far as watching the ball on the way down, that's the striker instinct in me. I just kind of swung at it instinctively toward the net.”
CARSON -- Juan Pablo Angel's concussion symptoms are lingering, so the regal striker likely won't be suiting up for Chivas USA come Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
Angel, who took a blow to the head in a preseason match three weeks ago in Portland, is going through Major League Soccer's concussion protocol, which forced him out of last weekend's loss to Vancouver.
He's training, but no headers -- and no decisions yet.
“We're just taking it day by day, and we'll see how it is tomorrow,” Angel said following the Goats' training session Wednesday morning at Home Depot Center. “It's hard to tell, because I still feel a little bit of … you know.”
Angel took a knock from Portland Timbers center back Eric Brunner in a tournament game March 1 at Jeld-Wen Field, and the impact has bothered him since, although he played in another preseason game three days later and Chivas' league opener March 11 against Houston.
The Goats could use the tall Colombian striker, who scored seven goals in nine games for club after arriving from the Galaxy in a trade that cleared a Designated Player slot on L.A.'s roster for Robbie Keane. Chivas has been shut out in back-to-back games to start the season, and chances were limited in both of them.
Head coach Robin Fraser was asked about Angel's chances to play this week. The forward is listed as questionable on the disabled list, but he must complete protocol, which takes a week minimum and includes a battery of tests.
“To be honest, I don't know,” he said. “As you know, there's a protocol to be followed, and we just have to follow up and see how he is.”
Told that Angel says he still has symptoms, Fraser said: “That's probably not the best sign, is it?”
CARSON -- There's plenty for Chivas USA to improve upon following its Major League Soccer opener Sunday afternoon, but the finish against the Houston Dynamo, who pulled out a 1-0 victory with nearly the last boot of the game, dampened the Goats' spirits only a smidge.
Chivas was organized, spirited and battled evenly, more or less, all afternoon with the club that played in last year's MLS Cup final, and if everything didn't quite click -- especially on attack -- there was more than enough reason for optimism.
“I'll be honest,” said midfielder Peter Vagenas, who made his Chivas debut in central midfield. “Like a lot of people, I wasn't sure what we had. ... We have character, we have heart, we fight. The soccer wasn't ideal, but let's be realistic. This team hasn't played together very much. We're facing a team that's got, I mean, how many games have Brad [Davis] and Brian [Ching] played together at this point? Right?
“At some points it was disjointed, we didn't get the service in to Juan [Pablo Angel up top], and that was frustrating, but at the end of the day we were tough, we were organized, we fought, and I promise you it's only going to get better.”
Chivas looked sharper and stronger than at any point during preseason, created four clear scoring opportunities -- with Angel volleying off a post with one and three headers, two by Angel, off-target -- and benefited from another big game by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who solved whatever problems surfaced until almost the end.
The Goats were seconds from a 0-0 draw and a share of the points, but defender Andre Hainault lifted Houston two minutes into stoppage after Davis' corner kick was cleared. It fell outside the box to Adam Moffat, who possesses a rocket shot, and his blast appeared to deflect to Hainault.
Chivas' backline was racing forward, as it should, so Hainault was left 1-on-1 with Kennedy. The finish was simple.
“It's a tough one,” said right back James Riley, one of seven players making their club debuts for the Rojiblancos. “In practice this week, our whole focus was set pieces, because we know that's what Houston lives and dies on. I thought we defended it well, guys jumped out to the second ball and tried to block it and prevent it, and it was just one of those things that are unlucky.
“That happens. For it to happen in the 90th minute was absolutely gutting. It's a cruel game sometimes. Very cruel game.”
Counting down the 11 biggest 2011 stories in Southern California soccer ...
Robin Fraser brought a lot of changes to Chivas USA and how it goes about its business on the field, and expectation has it that success should follow. We'll soon see.
The Goats might not have made the playoffs in 2011 -- a seven-game winless streak in August and September was too great to overcome -- but the work Fraser and his staff completed in altering the culture and building a foundation to win was among the most impressive this year in Major League Soccer.
Fraser, a former U.S. national-teamer and two-time MLS Defender of the Year, received his first professional head-coaching assignment last January and, without the benefit of a full offseason to build, immediately began to improve a threadbare roster.
It was a long-term project, ongoing, that saw him bring in more than a dozen players on trial, wheel and deal within the league (Nick LaBrocca, Heath Pearce and Juan Pablo Angel were the real prizes), and lure several players from abroad (Marcos Mondaini, Laurent Courtois and David Junior Lopes making impacts) while implementing a possession game that surely had its charms.
At their best, the Goats were phenomenal, one of the best teams at keeping and moving the ball in MLS. But consistency wasn't a virtue, the team managed back-to-back wins just once -- back in April -- and the 8-14-12 mark might have been an improvement on 2010, but the win total was the same.
“At times from game to game and even within games, I thought we played extremely well and were extremely engaged,” Fraser said when the campaign was over. “Then at other times, it was a lack of concentration and critical mistakes.”
The triumphs were in the details: LaBrocca's star turn atop the midfield diamond, Pearce's seamless transition to central defense, Dan Kennedy's phenomenal performance in the nets, Angel's finishing after he arrived from the Galaxy in August.
There's still one game left on the schedule, Saturday night against Seattle at Home Depot Center, but it means nothing in the grand scheme, not much more than Tuesday's MLS Reserve League clash with Vancouver, a 1-0 triumph claimed on Victor Estupiņan's goal near the end of the first half.
Most newsworthy was a second-half appearance by French midfielder Nicolas Dieuze, a 32-year-old midfielder who has played alongside assistant coach Greg Vanney and midfielder Laurent Courtois.
Dieuze, out of contract since his pact with Grenoble Foot 38 expired last spring, came on at halftime for Mariano Trujillo and fared well in his first real action for the Goats.
“Where we are, we're open to everything, and we're looking at everyone,” Fraser said. “We're going to look at everything we can see, everything we think might be worthwhile. With Nicolas, the opportunity to look at him came up, and we figured we'd take it.”
Dieuze played with Courtois at Toulouse from 1999 to 2001, then was Vanney's teammate at Bastia from 2001 through 2003. He then returned to Toulouse for five years, spent a season with Le Havre and two at Grenoble.
“I think he's an excellent two-way midfielder,” Vanney said. “He's an interesting player. We're always looking to gain some experience and look at players who can maybe help our team in the future.”
Major League Soccer's Players Union last week released its latest salary figures, and it's worth noting that Robbie Keane's wages isn't the only news for local fans.
Keane, it turns out, is making a little less than $3 million in base salary and nearly $3.5 million in guaranteed compensation, numbers that make him Major League Soccer's fourth-best-paid player, trailing only teammate David Beckham and New York's Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez.
Landon Donovan is fifth, and four others also are clearing seven figures.
Keane's salary -- $3,417,243.15 is guaranteed -- isn't out of sorts for a player of his abilities and experience, and it tops what the man he replaced, Juan Pablo Angel, is paid by more than $2 million.
Angel, traded last month to Chivas USA so Keane could be acquired, makes $1.25 million, and L.A. is picking up most of the tab.
The Galaxy's other newcomer, central defender Dasan Robinson, makes $97,500 in base salary and $100,000 is guaranteed compensation. Robinson, acquired in a trade Thursday from Toronto FC for defender Kyle Davies (who made $50,004 and $52,566.50), arrived in L.A. on Friday and could make his club debut next weekend at Columbus.
Chivas' recent arrivals are making decent (Laurent Courtois) and near-minimum-wage (David Junior Lopes) numbers. Courtois' $60,000 base is boosted to $206,000 by guaranteed bonuses. Lopes is making $45,000.
More intriguing is changes in the figures for Chivas defender Michael Umaņa and Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza from the numbers the union released in May.
Umaņa took a paycut, dropping from $170,000 base to $138,000 and from $182,312.50 in guaranteed compensation to $145,500.
DeLaGarza received a raise, with $22,500 in guaranteed bonuses added to his May figure.
The survey is dated Sept. 1. MLS and its clubs will not discuss salary details, but the MLSPU releases the figures each season.
Here's a look at the best-paid Galaxy and Chivas players, plus numbers for local players throughout the league: