Chivas USA confident after first win
It was a night of firsts for Chivas USA.
The Red-and-White earned and converted its first penalty kick, giving the club its first lead at home which the defense turned into the club's first-ever victory.
Hector Cuadros' 39th-minute spot kick and several key saves by keeper Brad Guzan got Chivas USA in the win column as the club beat fellow expansion side Real Salt Lake 1-0 at The Home Depot Center on Saturday.
Defender Ryan Suarez looked for the right way to express his emotions afterward.
"What do you say when you make history?" he said. "There are no words to say how nice it feels, not only to get this monkey off our backs, but just to shut everybody up. The media, the fans -- we've heard 'Chivas are no good,' 'Chivas, why are they here in the United States?' You know, 'This is an American league. We don't need these, you know, type of people here.'"
Aside from the significance of the club's first victory, the win was important because it helped Chivas USA keep pace with Real Salt Lake and Colorado, the two clubs directly ahead of them in the standings entering Saturday.
"We're back in the hunt," Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen said. "Maybe not for first place but definitely we're in the hunt for the third and fourth spots. Now, it's a realistic objective for us to make the playoffs."
Over the next 10 days, the Red-and-White can take a giant leap in the Western Conference table. Next week, Chivas USA play at Real Salt Lake, who now hold just a one-point lead on the Rapids and Chivas USA. Colorado and Chivas USA are even on points with four, though the Rapids have a better goal-differential. On May 18, Chivas USA play at Real Salt Lake.
"These are six-point games," Suarez said. "Today we got six points. That's a huge victory."
Said Rongen: "We knew the importance of this game. It wasn't necessarily because of the two expansion teams that made it a little bit more special. We knew that we didn't have a win under our belt after five games. It's important for the team's psyche. This team hasn't quit. ... We came back today with a lot of resilience again."
In its first five games, Chivas USA had rarely held leads, defended set pieces poorly, could not generate consistent attack and looked shaky at best. But the club kept plugging away and never doubted in itself, Rongen said.
After the match, Rongen pointed to a poster with the words "Creer en nosotros," or "Believe in ourselves."
"Maybe some of you guys and some other guys are downing us right now," Rongen told a group of reporters. "But what's important is that in this locker room, numbers 1-27 plus the coaching staff believe we can do it."
Could this be the start of another first: the first-ever winning streak?
"Only time will tell," Rongen said. "Can we use this game to springboard us a little bit, and get some more results, and play with a little less pressure? Let's be real honest. Every time you go out and don't get a result, pressure mounts. That's natural. That happens. It makes players sometimes tight and it makes some players actually play with a sense of desperation which we had a little bit of tonight."
Against Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA were the aggressors. Though it took a while for the club to get its offense clicking, once it did, the club kept attacking.
"We were the ones taking the game to them," Cuadros said. "They attacked very little, some in the second half, but in the end I think the result reflects all the good that we did on the field."
Chivas USA were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute. Cuadros tried to send a cross into the box from just outside the area but the ball hit Real Salt Lake defender Marlon Rojas in the right arm.
"I felt confident, asked for the ball and fortunately for me it went it," Cuadros said. "I think any one of us could have scored that goal but Thomas told me and Ramon that when we get a penalty for one of us to take it."
Cuadros said that he didn't give Countess too much of a thought only because he was unfamiliar with him.
"I just found out that he's a penalero, a keeper that's good at stopping penalties," Cuadros said after the game. "I guess it's good then that I didn't know that when I took it."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.