Chivas' Townsend lives up to rep with poacher's goal

Casey Townsend and Nick Rimando

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When he was drafted, pundits referred to Chivas USA rookie forward Casey Townsend as an “instinctive goal-poacher.” After snatching a quintessentially opportunistic goal in the Rojiblancos’ 1-0 upset victory of Real Salt Lake last weekend, it certainly seems Townsend has a natural nose for the net.

In his second match deputizing for injured striker Juan Pablo Ángel, the rookie from the University of Maryland notched the first goal of his fledging MLS career in the club’s shock victory over RSL. For a Chivas side that had struggled to create goals, Townsend’s workmanlike style proved to be the catalyst the team needed up front.

The goal came in the 72nd minute as Townsend, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and center back Chris Schuler all challenged for an Ante Jazic cross, causing a miscommunication between Rimando and Schuler that allowed the ball to fall perfectly for the rookie. And when the ball fell to his foot, the opportunistic Townsend did not miss, firing a shot into the back of the open net to help give Chivas their first win of the season.

WATCH: Townsend opens MLS account

“That’s what I do,” Townsend told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m going to go up and battle for the ball and make it difficult for the goalkeeper, and that’s what I did. There was a mix-up between him and the center back and it dropped nicely for me, so I just put it away.”

While Townsend showed his instinctive skill as a forward, the rookie admits that he learned plenty going up against the vaunted Salt Lake defense. For 90 minutes, Townsend battled with Schuler and Jámison Olave, RSL’s pair of hulking center backs. Throughout the match, both defenders sought to push around in rookie forward – in one instance slamming him into the endline advertising boards – but the plucky Townsend remained undeterred by the rough-and-tumble play.

“That’s my job: to work hard and make it difficult on those guys,” said Townsend of his battle with Olave and Schuler. “They were hard to play against. They were big, physical guys and probably the most physical guys that I’ve ever played against, but I thought I held my own and did what I could to help the team win. Luckily enough, I got the goal and that was all we needed tonight.”

Regardless of his performance, Townsend’s spot in Chivas USA’s starting lineup remains up in the air for Sunday’s match against Sporting Kansas City. With Ángel currently recovering from concussion symptoms, the 36-year-old striker remains an option to regain his starting role when Chivas host undefeated Sporting.

But lineup uncertainty does not concern Townsend; he’s too focused on helping Chivas win.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” he said. “I’m just happy that I could help the team win and when Juan comes back, he’s a great player and he’ll help the team more and we’ll be an even better team for it.”

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com.