Los Angeles Soccer: Ryan Kawulok

CHIVAS USA: Romero's 4th not enough

March, 1, 2012
The most exciting newcomer for Chivas USA this year? It might be Cesar Romero, the forward from San Diego who has spent his career with little clubs -- one of them indoors -- but has taken his chance with the Goats to heart.

Romero, 22, netted his fourth goal of the preseason Thursday night, and if it wasn't enough to beat the Portland Timbers, it should have been. Lax defending on a corner kick enabled the home side to pull out a 1-1 draw in the second of three doubleheaders in a four-team tournament, a match that drew 15,195 at Jeld-Wen Field.

Romero provided a 21st-minute advantage for Chivas, nodding trialist Alan Souza's cross from the right powerfully between the slight space separating Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and the right post.

Romero has been a handful for opposing defenses in nearly every one of his nine preseason-match appearances, and he was rewarded eight days ago with a contract. He's a nice foil for Juan Pablo Angel or rookie Casey Townsend, especially when Chivas uses a 4-4-2 alignment, as they did Thursday, rather than the 4-2-3-1 head coach Robin Fraser has employed during most of the buildup toward its March 11 Major League Soccer opener.

“[The goal] was certainly a result of hard work and desire,” Fraser said afterward. “It was the result of good, aggressive team play.”

With better fortune, the Goats could have added to their lead. A sharp cross caromed off Townsend's head to challenge Gleeson shortly after Romero struck, and Rauwshan McKenzie beat Gleeson to a header following a corner kick that Chris Taylor cleared off the goal line.

Portland got its goal in the 78th minute. Chivas' backline was caught flat-footed on a corner kick into the goalmouth, and rookie Ryan Kawulok, who signed his contract earlier in the day, beat trialist Scott Gordon to push it past Goats keeper Tim Melia, who was sharp all night.

“At the end of the day, the guys are getting into 90-minute fitness,” Fraser explained. “Set pieces in Portland are always going to be a big part of the story. They have a lot of big guys, and at home they thrive on them.”

Portland possesses one of the most rabid fan bases in MLS, and although the crowd was a little smaller than the group that saw the Timbers tie San Jose on Monday night, it provided a glimpse of regular-season atmosphere for, especially, Romero and Townsend.

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