CARSON -- Chivas USA's coaches issued a challenge to Paolo Cardozo as the team returned to full-time training this week, something along the lines of let's see something more concrete from all that skill.
The Argentine midfielder obliged them Friday morning, putting on a clinic to steer the Goats to a 3-1 MLS Reserve League victory over San Jose on one of the training fields west of Home Depot Center's stadium.
He scored two goals, drew the penalty kick for the third, and played with a joie de vivre that ought to have everyone in red and white stripes smiling broadly. Might Cardozo, who arrived from the Galaxy two months ago, be ready to join Chivas' attacking revolution?
“I think today he's put in his best effort since he's been here,” assistant coach Greg Vanney said. “He was dangerous -- he was goal-dangerous. ... For him, it's getting him to think about the goal and think about the final product and not just about possessing around the field.”
Possession-wise, few can match Cardozo, a 22-year-old Uruguayan born magician who came to the Galaxy last year on loan from Quilmes and was sent down the hall when L.A., in dire need of backline help, came calling for David Junior Lopes -- who, by the way, dropped by to watch some of Friday's action.
Cardozo had the best foot skills on the Galaxy, but a pretty good margin, and to watch him weave through foes in tight spaces is something truly to behold. If the chief aim in the game were to weave through players in limited space, he'd be Lionel Messi.
That skill has never translated into production, one reason the Galaxy found him expendable -- and why Chivas, as it has added dynamic young attacking talent (with, especially, Jose Erik Correa and Juan Agudelo), has used him in only three of 10 first-team games since his arrival.
“We challenged him over the last few days,” Vanney said. “He's crafty in possession and can speed around, but at the end of the day, as an attacking midfielder you have to have final product. ... Today he definitely had some good looks.”
Both goals were beauties. Cardozo took a feed from Cesar Romero in the seventh minute and chipped gently from above the box over goalkeeper Evan Newton into the goal's right-side netting. Another gorgeous chip, after a Jorge Villafaņa cross was headed from the goalmouth, made it 3-0 in the 66th.
Two minutes earlier, Cardozo won a penalty that Miller Bolaņos converted, taking a pass from Casey Townsend, stepping into the box and hitting the turf from a Beto Navarro challenge.
“I don't think, personally, it was a penalty, but two cheers for Cardozo,” said Navarro, a starting center back for Cal FC in its marvelous U.S. Open Cup run. “That player, he's dirty, man. He's a good little player. He chipped us on those two. I'm a little shocked at what he can do.”
He means Cardozo has dirty skill, not that he's a cheat, although Cardozo knows how to win a spot kick. He grew up in Argentina.
Cardozo and Bolaņos were terrific in tandem. Said Vanney: “There were times they were on a 2-v-2 pass-about, just having a fun time with it.”
Shea Salinas, making his first game appearance since New York's Rafa Marquez broke his clavicle in four pieces back in mid-April, scored in the 82nd minute for the Earthquakes.
BETO'S BIG CHANCE: Navarro might have been the happiest player on the field.
Navarro is one of the Cal FC players likeliest to profit from the Open Cup experience, as he discovered upon returning home to Delano, near Bakersfield, following Tuesday night's fourth-round loss to the Seattle Sounders.
“We flew into L.A. [Wednesday],” he said, “then I got the text: 'Hey, can you come train and come play Friday?' I jumped on a train from Bakersfield to San Francisco that night.”
The past few weeks have “been a bit overwhelming,” he admits, but in a good way.
“It's been a fun month, two months, coming off that Cal FC run we had with Eric [Wynalda],” Navarro said. “Unbelievable stuff. I hope this is just the beginning, and from what it looks like, I think things are looking up pretty quick, you know?”
WORTH NOTING: Former Chivas and Galaxy defender Bobby Burling played the full 90 for the Goats. The Loyola Marymount product, who was in camp a couple of weeks back with Colorado, started a trial last week. ... Scottish trialist Scott Morrison played 77 minutes at left back. His trial ends Sunday. ... Chivas had planned to put 16-year-old midfielder Marco “Marky” Delgado on its U.S. Open Cup roster, but MLS informed the club it could not, Vanney said. It's apparently tied to his league eligibility -- Delgado, who signed a Home Grown Player contract in April, can't play until August. That's about his length of service in the Chivas USA Academy; he arrived when Cosmos West was folded into the academy. ... Delgado was splendid Friday, especially in the first half at right back. ... Brazilian midfielder Tiago Luzardi, who played a couple of games for the indoor club Anaheim Splash last winter, came on in the second half for Chivas. So did Academy players Eric Gonzalez (Corona/Santiago HS) and Ben Spencer, and Anthony Dheming (Gardena/Locke HS) was on the bench. ... Cal FC goalkeeper Derby Carrillo was on hand to watch Navarro play.
MLS RESERVE LEAGUE
Home Depot Center Field 4 (Carson)
Chivas USA 3, San Jose Earthquakes 1
C -- Paolo Cardozo (Cesar Romero) 7
C -- Miller Bolaņos pen. 64
C -- Paolo Cardozo 66
SJ -- Shea Salinas (Sam Garza) 82
Chivas USA: Tim Melia (Patrick McLain, 46); Marco Delgado, John Alexander Valencia, Bobby Burling, Scott Morrison (Eric Gonzalez, 78); Miller Bolaņos, Ben Zemanski (Scott Gordon, 46), Paolo Cardozo (Tiago Luzardi, 79), Jorge Villafaņa; Cesar Romero, Casey Townsend (Ben Spencer, 82). Unused subs: Anthony Dheming, Ryan Smith.
San Jose Earthquakes: Evan Newton; Yousef Samy, Brad Ring, Beto Navarro, Josh Suggs; Shea Salinas, Jake Hustedt (Roberto Mendoza, 87), Rafael Baca, Ellis McLoughlin (Angel Heredia, 66); Sam Garza, Cesar Diaz Pizarro. Unused subs: David Bingham, Raul Cardona, Brian Randall.
Yellow card: Romero 30.
Referee: Magic Berendji. Att.: c. 80.
1. Vancouver 3-1-1 (7-7 GF-GA) 10 points
2. Chivas USA 2-1-1 (8-5) 7
3. Galaxy 2-1-1 (6-6) 7
4. Portland 2-3-0 (7-5) 6
5. San Jose 1-2-2 (5-7) 5
6. Seattle 1-3-1 (6-9) 4