Los Angeles Soccer: Leandro Fernandez

CHIVAS USA: Loss a 'wakeup call'

February, 22, 2012
SAN DIEGO -- There were the obvious pluses for Chivas USA in its first real game of the year: a very fine first half, complete with a one-goal lead; superb play from John Alexander Valencia in the back, Nick LaBrocca in midfield and Michael Lahoud and Ryan Smith on the flanks; James Riley's continued mastery at right back; another goal from rookie Casey Townsend.

They paled next to those pluses disguised as torment Wednesday night, when an overly physical encounter with Club Tijuana turned on a slew of yellow cards and then a red.

By the time it was over, the Xolos -- just two points off the lead in Mexico's top division -- were celebrating a 5-2 triumph at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium in a friendly that was not very friendly at all.

Lahoud finished a superb ball from Smith to give Chivas USA a first-half advantage, but newcomer Miller Bolaņos was sent off after elbowing Bruno Piceno five minutes into the second half, and that was that.

Raul Enriquez evened things three minutes later, Mauro Gerk scored a go-ahead goal that didn't appear to cross the line in the 65th minute, and Tijuana added goals on their final three shots of the half to pull away in the second San Diego Clasico, played before 4,238 fans garbed mostly in red and black Xolos shirts.

It was an often ugly encounter, with 36 fouls, seven yellow cards -- five of the them to Chivas in the first half -- and the red to Bolaņos, which was a blessing, sort of, in disguise.

“There's no such thing as a friendly game ...,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said afterward. “It's part of it, though, and it's part of the experience, and it's part of getting ready for the competition of MLS. So it's good that we got a game like this.

“It's a wakeup call, certainly from the mentality of preseason games. For us, it's good to be in that sort of environment.”

The Goats had a very fine first half, with LaBrocca and Oswaldo Minda providing a foundation behind Bolaņos in midfield and solid backline play, especially by Valencia, who cleaned up a Riley miscue that gave Tijuana a chance and stepping in to block a shot that might have done damage.

Smith and Lahoud, who have been forces on the flanks all preseason, hooked up in the 36th minute. Smith stripped Alejandro Molina -- one of three former first-choice players in the Xolos' fully reserve lineup -- then pushed the ball past and leapt over him as he slid in afterward. That sent the Englishman into space on the right, and Lahoud was at the far post to deposit the cross.

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