Los Angeles Soccer: Veljko Panunovic

CHIVAS USA: Smith's back and it's good

January, 18, 2012
CARSON -- Ryan Smith's disappearance was among the oddest occasions in Major League Soccer last season, and the mystery surrounding his departure for England just three months into the campaign led to understandable doubt he'd be around when Chivas USA opened its preseason camp this week.

Ryan Smith
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesRyan Smith, right, had to leave MLS last season to be with his ailing mother in England.

Turns out that was never in question.

The London-born midfielder, whose rights Chivas acquired from Sporting Kansas City in a November trade, is in great spirits as he begins his tenure in Southern California, and he understands there are questions about why he left last June.

Smith, 25, who came up in his neighborhood club Arsenal's system and played for Leicester City, Derby County, Millwall, Southampton and Crystal Palace, was an immediate hit when he joined K.C. in 2007. He's a creative midfielder with uncommon qualities, and he scored three goals with seven assists that season. Injuries slowed him early last year, and then in mid-June, he was gone.

All Sporting would say: Family reasons.

“I had to leave last summer to return to look after my mum,” Smith said. “What a lot of people don't know if the reason why I left is to be close to her because she suffers from lupus, which is an [autoimmune] disease, and it's a permanent illness as well. Nobody knew that apart from the coaching staff at Kansas City, and that was the reason I was sent home.”

He went on trial at Real Zaragoza in Spain, but “nothing worked out over there for whatever reason,” Smith said. Then he “spoke to the guys here at Chivas, and they wanted to take me, and that was it. It was pretty much done as quickly as I found out.”

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CHIVAS USA: Another lead ... another loss

June, 25, 2011
Chivas USA's difficulties holding leads reared up again Saturday, when the Philadelphia Union overcame a halftime deficit to pull out a 3-2 victory. Danny Mwanga's team-best fifth goal of the season, a superb shot off a quick turn, settled things in the 82nd minute.

Michael Umaņa gave the Goats a 28th-minute lead -- finishing following three headers after Union goalkeeper Fayed Mondragon punched away a corner kick -- and Justin Braun pulled them even in the 77th after Veljko Panunovic and Carlos Ruiz netted second-half goals.

Chivas (4-7-5) has surrendered six leads in its last six games and has won just once in its last seven. Philadelphia (7-4-5) is atop the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of New York, which plays Sunday at Chicago.