Chivas USA sunk by hat trick
Chivas USA had no answer for Colorado's Jeff Cunningham on Saturday night as the diminutive striker bagged a hat trick and helped the Rapids beat Chivas USA 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.
Cunningham scored in the 30th, 62nd and 77th minutes for his first career three-goal game. Thiago Martins scored on an 83rd-minute penalty kick for Chivas USA's only goal.
For the Red-and-White, it was yet another exercise in offensive futility. Though the club dominated the possession and flooded the Rapids' third with attackers, the Red-and-White pieced together few genuinely dangerous possessions.
Chivas USA's defense was short-handed as Alfonso Loera was out with a strained calf. Ryan Suarez hurt his back early in the week and did not start but came on early in the second half. The defense came out in its now customary three-man backline, as Ezra Hendrickson dropped back from the right side of the midfield to his more familiar right back position. Douglas Sequeira manned the center while Armando Begines played on the left. Also, Jesus Ochoa made his first start for the Red-and-White since April 30.
It was Ochoa who gave Chivas its first sense of danger when he unloaded a 30-yard rocket in the 19th minute but his shot narrowly missed the top corner of the net. Then in the 21st minute, Chivas USA won a free kick and Antonio Martinez chipped the ball into the area but Sequeira managed a mistimed header that floated over the goal.
Chivas USA were relegated to firing long-range missiles in the opening half-hour. Begines took his turn at trying to beat Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon from distance but his left-footed 35-yard blast in the 27th minute sailed high over the crossbar.
For the first half-hour, the Rapids yielded very little. The Rapids were well-organized but Chivas USA's passing was off target on several occasions.
Yet it was the Rapids who struck first. On the half-hour, a quick counter off a turnover found Cunningham with space just outside of the box and, with nobody standing between him and the goal, he fired a well-placed laser into the right corner of the net.
The Rapids nearly gave the goal back to Chivas USA. Martins sent a cross into the area and Rapids defender Ricky Lewis ran onto the cross and tried to clear the ball. However, his header nailed the crossbar instead but was cleared out of danger soon enough.
In the 45th minute, Chivas USA striker Isaac Romo crumpled to a heap in the middle of the field. He limped gingerly off the field and was later diagnosed with a strained right hamstring. Romo was quickly replaced by Matt Taylor. For Taylor, it was his first appearance since June 1 and just the fourth game he's appeared in since April 30 after starting the first five games of the season.
Still, it was the Rapids who had the first shot of the second half. Alain Nkong ripped a shot from outside the box. Guzan dived to his left and caught the ball in the 51st minute. Two minutes later, Cunningham put a shot on goal from nearly the same spot but his blast sailed well high over the crossbar.
Taylor nearly equalized in the 55th minute. Francisco Mendoza slipped a pass to Taylor and beat the offside trap. Taylor darted into the area and ripped a shot from 15 yards out that beat Cannon but caromed off the crossbar.
In the 59th minute, Suarez came on for Ochoa. Suarez's presence allowed Hendrickson to push up and join the attack more often than he had prior. Hendrickson immediately made his presence felt as he headed a shot over the crossbar on a Chivas USA restart.
But in the 62nd minute, Cunningham struck again. Jean Philippe Peguero got the ball inside the area and drew three Red-and-White defenders. He coolly slipped a pass to Cunningham, who had nobody within five yards of him. He buried a 10-yard shot to give the Rapids a two-goal edge.
Cunningham nearly dug the knife into Chivas USA's back in the 65th minute. Cunningham ran alone inside the area but Chivas USA's Begines dragged the striker down inside the box. But Guzan dived to his left and stopped Cunningham's spot kick and kept the score 2-0.
But Cunningham still succeeded in burying Chivas USA after all. Rapids substitute Dan Gargan, who seconds before had checked into the match, caught Chivas USA napping on a throw-in, putting a well-placed ball into Cunningham's path. Cunningham outran Sequeira to the ball and bent a 16-yard shot past a helpless Guzan.
Martins finally put the hosts on the board. A Rapids player was whistled for a handball inside the area and Martins converted the spot kick in the 83rd minute.
There is no rest for the weary, however, as Chivas USA hits the road. Wednesday, the Red-and-White visit Western leader FC Dallas then next Saturday, the club will play at Kansas City before returning home July 2 against Chicago.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Jeff Cunningham (Colorado Rapids)
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MSLnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Colorado Rapids (3-8-2) vs. CD Chivas USA (1-9-3)
June 18, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 6 (Luchi Gonzalez 2) 30
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 7 (Jean Philippe Peguero 2) 62
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 8 (Dan Gargan 1) 78
CHV -- Thiago Martins 3 (penalty kick) 83
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ricky Lewis (Amir Lowery 90), Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Eric Denton, Alain Nkong, Kyle Beckerman, Leo Cullen, Luchi Gonzalez (Dan Gargan 78), Jeff Cunningham (Wolde Harris 82), Jean Philippe Peguero.
Substitutes Not Used: Byron Foss, Ritchie Kotschau.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Jeff Cunningham 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Jeff Cunningham 4); FOULS: 22 (Mike Petke 5); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4 (Eric Denton 3); SAVES: 0
CD Chivas USA -- Brad Guzan, Ezra Hendrickson, Douglas Sequeira, Armando Begines, Jesus Ochoa (Ryan Suarez 60), Hector Cuadros, Antonio Martinez (Arturo Torres 46), Ramon Ramirez, Francisco Mendoza, Thiago Martins, Isaac Romo.
Substitutes Not Used: Esteban Arias, Francisco Gomez, Orlando Perez, Martin Zuniga.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Thiago Martins 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Thiago Martins 1); FOULS: 12 (4 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Douglas Sequeira 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Ramon Ramirez 3); SAVES: 3 (Brad Guzan 3)
COL -- Kyle Beckerman (caution; Pushing, Holding) 40
CHV -- Armando Begines (caution; Pushing, Holding) 65
COL -- Ricky Lewis (caution; Deliberate Handball) 83
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Emiliano Monje
4th Official: Jorge Reyes
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.