Los Angeles Soccer: Ryan Smith

Galaxy, Chivas on a roll heading into SuperClasico

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
5:32
PM PT
CARSON -- The Galaxy and Chivas USA meet up in the second SuperClasico of the season on something of a roll, and Saturday night's showdown at Home Depot Center is clearly the most important meeting in the rivalry since L. A. captured the 2009 playoff series.

The Galaxy (8-10-3) have won five of eight games since returning in mid-June from a three-week break, and they ought not to have lost the two games they've dropped in the span. Their resurgence, following a dreadful first 2 1/2 months, is all about the big names: David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.

Chivas (6-7-5) has lost only one of its last nine league games, posted three straight shutouts -- the Rojiblancos haven't surrendered a goal in 318 minutes -- and gone 6-2-5 since mid-May, including the run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

The rivals sit fifth and sixth in the Western Conference, separated by four points on the boundary for playoff berths, and every conference encounter can be a six-point swing.

Here's a look at the 27th SuperClasico showdown, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Home Depot Center in Carson:

CURRENT FORM: There's been a lot of good and a bit of bad in both teams' recent performances. They're getting results, but Chivas USA's attack is toothless, and the Galaxy has taken to outscoring opponents, or at least trying to, which leads to some grossly entertaining encounters.

L.A. just picked up seven points in a three-game road swing, and they've come from behind for three wins and a tie in the past month. Two Beckham goals fueled last weekend's 5-3 romp over Portland, and 18-year-old rookie Jose Villarreal, from Inglewood, came off the bench to score a terrific 87th-minute goal to deliver a 2-2 draw Wednesday night at Portland.

Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez's absence because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament has been debilitating all season. He returned to action in the July 4 loss to Philadelphia but hasn't played since, complaining of pain in his surgically repaired right knee.

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CHIVAS USA: Goats need goals, wins

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
7:19
PM PT

ChivasVictor Decolongon/Getty Images Jose Erick Correa, left, and Juan Agudelo, center, have infused Chivas USA with offense, but the team needs more.


CARSON -- The steps Chivas USA has taken this season are apparent in the results the past two months: just one loss in 10 games of every stripe -- and that to Real Salt Lake -- with a march into the U.S. Open Cup's final four.

How much further the Goats still must go is right there, too: They've won just twice against Major League Soccer competition during that span -- and that extends to 10 league games, going back into mid-April.

They've been turning a corner, in the parlance, but where that corner straightens isn't yet clear, it seems. Not everyone agrees.

“I feel like maybe the first month of the season, you could emphasize that,” Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said on the eve of Saturday night's match with the Vancouver Whitecaps (8-4-5) at Home Depot Center. “I feel like the last two months, we've really turned that corner and become a team that can really grind results out.

“I would like to obviously see those results not just being ties.”

The Goats (5-7-4) have asserted themselves the past two months as their personality -- a gritty possession team -- has matured with the acquistions of, especially, young forwards Juan Agudelo and Jose Erick Correa. There's a growing dynamism within the group, and as they hit the midpoint of their MLS campaign, the next step in the evolution requires that dynamism to start translating into goals.

Chivas has hit the net only 11 times in 16 games, by far the worst rate in MLS. It has been shut out seven times, scored more than once just twice, and that's not entirely about the scoring struggles at season's start: no goals in two of the last three MLS games.

“We certainly feel like every day we're getting closer to the group understanding what is necessary to create more chances,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “We like our group of players. There's this gelling process we certainly feel has to take place and is taking place. The more we see the group, the more we feel like it's coming along.”

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CHIVAS: New-look reserves share points

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
6:18
PM PT

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.

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OPEN CUP: Chivas holds off Fusion

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
11:56
PM PT

VENTURA -- The way its Major League Soccer brethren were dropping games left and right, Chivas USA couldn't be too disappointed after capturing its U.S. Open Cup opener Tuesday night, even if the performance left plenty to be desired.


The Goats got an early goal, from Cesar Romero, and withstood heavy pressure at times to pull out a 1-0 victory over the Ventura County Fusion and advance to a fourth-round meeting next week in North Carolina.

The Fusion, an amateur powerhouse from the Premier Development League -- and featuring former Chivas midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and two players, Kennedy Chongo and Daniel Steres, who were with the Goats during preseason -- were the better side much of the night but couldn't beat Tim Melia, the No. 2 goalkeeper, despite creating more opportunities than Chivas.

“In a single-elimination tournament, the most important thing is to win, and these games are tough,” Goats coach Robin Fraser said. “The 'underdog' really treats it like it's a huge game, and certainly we need to as well, but as you can tell by tonight with seven teams losing in the MLS, these are difficult games.

“So to come out and win and move onto the next round is the most important thing.”

An expected SuperClasico showdown with the Galaxy was dead before kickoff -- L.A. was one of seven MLS clubs to lose against lower-division competition -- so Chivas has a date next Tuesday in Cary, N.C., with the Carolina RailHawks.

“[Playing the Galaxy] is what we expected,” said Chivas winger Ryan Smith, an Englishman, “but this is like the F.A. Cup back home. You don't know who's going to win because it's who turns up on the day. I'm glad L.A. are out.”

Chivas managed only a couple of chances and tested Ventura's goalkeeper, UCLA's Earl Edwards, only once, on Romero's 13th-minute goal. He took a through ball from Juan Agudelo, and his low shot nutmegged Edwards from right of the net.

It was Romero's first goal for Chivas' first team, but his 12th in all for Chivas, including preseason, MLS Reserve League and reserve friendlies.

“I’ve been knocking on the door [of the first team],” said Romero, who has played sparingly the past six week. “Every day is a new day for me, and every day I train and work hard for the main goal which is to start on the first team.”

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SUPERCLASICO: Best rivalry? Let's ask

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
11:56
PM PT

Barca vs RealLluis Gene/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry is one of many in the world that rank at the top of the list.


CARSON -- The Galaxy and Chivas USA renew their SuperClasico rivalry Saturday night at Home Depot Center, so what better time to weigh in on the best rivalries in soccer -- in MLS and around the world.

We asked a handful of players and coaches with both teams their thoughts on what matchups are the real Clasicos. Here's what they said.

  • BEST WORLD RIVALRY
There are so many classic derbies in world soccer, from Boca Juniors-River Plate (Argentina) to Inter Milan-AC Milan and Lazio-Roma (Italy), Tottenham-Arsenal and Liverpool-Everton (England) to Rangers-Celtic (Scotland), Real Madrid-Barcelona (Spain) to Galatasaray-Fenerbahįe (Turkey), America-Guadalajara (Mexico) to Red Star-Partizan (Serbia). There, that scratches the surface.

What's the best?

Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy: “The Real Madrid-Barįa match has been pretty special the past few years. You don't want it to get diluted, because they play each other 12 times a year. Now that Manchester City is having their way in the English Premier League, them with Manchester City is pretty special. And I always like watching Tim Howard and Everton play against Liverpool.”

Galaxy midfielder Juninho: Brazil-Argentina.”

Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel: Boca-River.”

Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza: “There's so many out there, man. Barcelona-Real is a pretty good one, I think. I think that one's got to be the top one.”

Chivas defender Ante Jazic: Barįa-Real.”

Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan: Barcelona-Madrid.”

Chivas defender James Riley: “Ooh, that's a tough one. I think Celtic-Rangers has the best history, and Boca-River Plate. I would go with Celtic-Rangers.”

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CHIVAS USA: Tight clash turns sour

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
8:55
PM PT


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
It's the same old story for Chivas, which has only four goals in eight games -- a horrendous total, worst in Major League Soccer. And it's not for lack of trying.

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.

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CHIVAS: Next step is successive success

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
9:17
PM PT
If Chivas USA did indeed turn a very important corner in last weekend's victory at Portland, they'll need to build on it Saturday when they visit Toronto FC -- the worst team in Major League Soccer, according to the standings -- looking for back-to-back wins for only the second time under Robin Fraser.

The Goats (2-3-0, 6 points) followed an abysmal first half with a tremendous second-half performance last week, with virtually everything that had troubled them through the first four games -- the lack of attack the most glaring problem -- falling into place as English winger Ryan Smith fueled a comeback for a 2-1 triumph over the Timbers.

It was Chivas' second win in as many road games, and injury-hit Toronto FC, off to a 0-4-0 league start, provides an opportunity to make it two in a row.

Fraser knows that won't be easy.

“I think [Toronto is] a hungry team,” he told ESPN Los Angeles on the eve of the clash at BMO Field. “A hungry team that certainly did well in the Champions League, getting some good results and with how they played. They've not had the same results to show in league, but they're definitely better than their record shows.

“At home, I know they feel they must get this win. I expect a very hard-fought game.”

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CHIVAS USA: Smith serves up a win

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
11:15
PM PT


Chivas USA showed off the best and the worst it can be Saturday night, but it saved the good stuff for the end en route to a second win in as many road games.

English winger Ryan Smith fueled the comeback from an early deficit, whipping in pinpoint crosses from the left wing for Alejandro Moreno and Nick LaBrocca to finish, and the Goats (2-3-0) escaped the Western Conference cellar with a 2-1 triumph at Portland (1-3-1).

LaBrocca's header in the 82nd minute was the difference as Chivas, which has dropped three 1-0 decisions at home, followed its worst half of the year with its best.

“The attitude [at halftime] in the locker room was one of 'this game is here for us, this is an opportunity for us, can we get it, will we do the work required to get it' …,” said Moreno, who beat Eric Brunner to Smith's cross to tie the score just three minutes into the second half. “I think we showed ourselves that when we're aggressive and we have the right mindset and we can put a good effort on the field, we're going to give ourselves a chance to get the result.”

The Goats were on their heels all of the first half, unable to hold onto the ball but minimizing the damage through the usual backline heroics, although it was a defensive miscue that put them behind. Scottish striker Kris Boyd got Portland's goal in the 16th minute, finishing after goalkeeper Dan Kennedy collided with defender James Riley as he grabbed (and then dropped) a cross from Franck Songo'o on the right flank.

They were otherwise pretty good defensively -- fortunate, too, when Rauwshan McKenzie wasn't whistled for a penalty kick after shoving Brunner in the 25th minute, a gift returned when referee Chris Penso missed another PK, failing to call Portland defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste for a handball from a Moreno volley in the 58th.

Coach Robin Fraser switched from the 4-2-3-1 formation Chivas has been using to the old 4-4-2, with diamond midfield, that was the foundation for last year's group. The pluses -- “We get more bodies in the box, and that in iteself creates better chances for us to score,” Moreno said -- didn't add up until the second half, when Smith came on and immediately added a spark.

It paid off right away, with Smith taking a long ball from Heath Pearce, dribbling one way and the next past Lovel Palmer, then sending in the cross for Moreno to powerfully nod home. It was the first shot on goal for Chivas since Casey Townsend's goal to beat Real Salt Lake two weeks ago, a span of 155 minutes.

The Goats, who benefited from a superb showing by energetic midfielder Ben Zemanski, were in command the rest of the way, finding passage into the box and putting a few shots on target but not really threatening until another fine sequence -- Pearce to Zemanski to Smith to LaBrocca -- made it 2-1.

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CHIVAS USA: Same old same old in defeat

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
10:42
PM PT

Chivas/KCKelvin Kuo/US PresswireChivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno passes the ball defended by Sporting Kansas City defenseman Julio Cesar.

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.

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CHIVAS USA: Rookie takes down RSL

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
12:19
AM PT
Casey Townsend calls it the “striker instinct,” and as a pure striker, he ought to know. It generated the biggest moment of Chivas USA's season so far, delivered to the Goats their first victory.

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.”

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CHIVAS: 'Gutting' loss can't dim delight

March, 11, 2012
3/11/12
9:06
PM PT

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.”

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CHIVAS USA: Loss a 'wakeup call'

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
11:27
PM PT
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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MLS wraps preps in L.A., Oxnard

February, 18, 2012
2/18/12
2:56
PM PT

The Chicago Fire split a pair of games Saturday morning at Oxnard College, bringing to an end a series of 20 preseason matches involving Major League Soccer clubs in Carson and Oxnard.


Three more games were played in San Luis Obispo, and Chivas USA has a ticketed game Wednesday night in San Diego against Mexico's Club Tijuana.

Eight clubs, including Chivas and the Galaxy, trained this month at Home Depot Center or Oxnard College, several of them at both sites.

The San Jose Earthquakes beat the Fire, 2-0, in Oxnard's main stadium Saturday, with Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart and Brad Ring scoring first-half goals. The Fire rallied from a first-half deficit to beat the Ventura County Fusion, 2-1, on an adjacent field. Woodland Hills' Orr Barouch converted a penalty kick and set up Pari Pantazopoulos' strike to lift Chicago.

Thousand Oaks' Danny Barrera, who was in camp for the Fire, scored on a free kick, his second such goal in as many games. Barrera, a former UC Santa Barbara standout who is contracted to a Serbian club, scored a superb goal in the Fusion's loss Friday to the Montreal Impact at Home Depot Center.

BEST OF THE CAMPS: All in all, the soccer on display wasn't great. Everyone's in preseason form, which means lagging fitness, too many mistakes and too many connections still being made. Some matches were interesting only because you could hear everything said on the field, including a fair share of expletives. (Yes, you can swear in soccer, so long as you don't direct it at the ref.)

All that said, here were some of the good things we saw during the games in L.A. and Ventura counties:

BEST TEAM: The Portland Timbers clicked better than everyone else, with Cameroonian trialist Franck Songo'o leading one of the few attacks that appeared ready for the season to start. Portland went 3-0-1, scored four on the Galaxy and two against Houston and Chicago.

BEST PLAYER: It might be Songo'o. Or his teammate James Marcelin, a monster in midfield. We also liked what Sanna Nyassi brings to Montreal's attack, Michael Lahoud's and Ryan Smith's play on Chivas USA's flanks, and the effort Adam Cristman brings up front for the Galaxy. L.A. newcomer Marcelo Sarvas' vision and touch also impresses, and Oswaldo Minda is clearly going to be a solid midfield anchor for Chivas. If we have to pick one ... it's Songo'o.

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CHIVAS USA: Awful start, decent finish

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
10:22
PM PT
CARSON -- Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser was not pleased with his side's effort in the first half Tuesday morning against the Galaxy. The Goats, fielding close to a first-choice lineup against a group of second- and third-teamers, played listless, mistake-filled soccer and struggled to figure out their archrival's direct approach.

It led to a three-goal deficit by halftime, and only a second-half rally, after Fraser made wholesale changes, salvaged some positives in a 3-2 closed-door loss on L.A.'s training field at Home Depot Center.

“First half really poor. Really poor,” Fraser reported afterward. “We had too many turnovers and not enough ideas to deal with the way that they were playing. I was disappointing to come out and start that way. I think the second half, we came out with as little more resolve against how we wanted to play against them, and as a result we were able to turn the game a bit in our favor and create some good opportunities.

“This is part of the learning process. You're going to see different sorts of teams. And I think the way the Galaxy play, this is the first time we've seen a team that plays [so directly], and we just have to learn from it.”

Miscues from trusted hands, including backline leader Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, contributed to the first-half fallout, with the Galaxy scoring on easy finishes from Pat Noonan (after a takeaway), Adam Cristman (after a backpass disaster) and Dan Keat (after rookie Rafael Garcia sliced through the defense).

“Errors in the back are never good,” Fraser said. “We had guys make mistakes today who are good players and know the consequences of making mistakes like that in big games. So certainly we feel again like this is something we have to learn from. We have to recognize opportunities [to score], we have to be cleaner. You can't turn the ball over 35 yards from your goal. You just can't.

“I feel like we're taking steps forward, but it's always disappointing whenever you shoot yourself in the foot.”

Michael Lahoud, who arguably has been Chivas' best player through six preseason matches, said the first half “wasn't good enough.”

“We want to be a team of ambition,” he said. “We want to be a team that competes, especially when we play against these guys -- they're neighbors, they're our rivals, and it's never an easy game. But that doesn't excuse the way we came out. We came out flat and passes weren't connected.”

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CHIVAS USA: Bolaņos debuts in win

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
6:52
AM PT

CARSON -- Miller Bolaņos made his Chivas USA debut, Ben Zemanski returned from concussion and top draft pick Casey Townsend celebrated his first start in red and white with a goal.

All in all, a good afternoon for the Goats. Oh, and they won.

Townsend's strike right at the start, from a Ryan Smith feed, lifted Chivas USA to a 1-0 triumph over the Montreal Impact in a 60-minute session Tuesday on one of the fields east of Home Depot Center's main stadium, the club's first win over Major League Soccer competition this preseason.

The result didn't matter nearly as much as did the opportunity to survey several players looking to make the roster, and head coach Robin Fraser gave several -- including rookie defenders R.J. Allen and Fabian Kling and trialists Cesar Romero and Mario Ledesma -- the full hour to show what they can do.

Romero is a good bet to win a job. One of the goalkeepers in action -- UCLA product Brian Rowe, a supplemental draft pick, in the first half and Cal Poly's Patrick McLain -- likely will claim the No. 3 slot, behind Dan Kennedy and Tim Melia.

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