Two miscues, two different moments lacking concentration were all it took for D.C. United to quell Club Deportivo Chivas USA and silence a boisterous and raucous crowd all wearing red and white at The Home Depot Center.
In the first half, Francisco Gomez was taken off with a severely sprained ankle. As Francisco Mendoza stepped onto the pitch, United struck with a counterattack and pounced on Chivas USA players slow to respond to the move.
With a quarter-hour remaining, Chivas USA defender Ezra Hendrickson fell to the pitch with cramps. He was taken off, leaving the club with 10 men. Again, Chivas USA players appeared lost for a moment, allowed Santino Quaranta to penetrate and feed Christian Gomez, who then beat Brad Guzan for the 2-0 finale.
"In soccer, a few seconds of a lack concentration can cost you the game and I think that's what it was today," Chivas USA captain Ramon Ramirez said. "Today we saw where we stand and where we need to improve and get better as a team in order to compete in this league."
Chivas USA maintained possession for most of the match -- especially in the second half -- but the two counters were all it took for the club start off on the wrong foot. Defensive mix-ups and concentration errors did not sit well with defender Ryan Suarez.
"Those were the two softest goals I've ever seen," he said. "At the end of the day, there's no excuses. I don't much (care) if we're a new team or if this guy speaks Spanish or if this guy speaks (Portuguese) and we speak English. The game's universal. You need to understand it."
United seemed content to let Chivas USA take the game to its third and as Chivas USA continued to push forward unsuccessfully, United defenders picked their spots effectively. It's just another area that the club will have to improve.
"Counterattacks? That's the easiest thing to stop," Suarez said. "You either take a foul and you get your yellow card or you get numbers behind the ball."
While the match was ultimately fruitless for the hosts, not everything was a lost cause. The club showed more rhythm than it had over the past five preseason friendlies. Ramirez showed flashes of the brilliance that made him a megastar and the defense held firm without center back Douglas Sequeira.
"We displayed certain things that will eventually make us a good team," Chivas USA head coach Thomas Rongen said. "The difference in the game was us not converting opportunities and D.C. United being able to attack. D.C. on the counter was able to expose us."
The club showed resiliency after surrendering both goals. Chivas USA attacked with numbers the final quarter-hour but lacked finishing touch.
"I tip my hat off to the boys," Suarez said. "We did regroup after the first goal. We had a lot more opportunities than they did. Unfortunately the final pass or the final shot on goal didn't go our way."
On the goals, Chivas USA's defensive breakdowns were glaring. There was too much space for United players to maneuver and both Gomez and Joshua Gros, United's first goalscorer, used it to D.C.'s advantage.
Still, Rongen said the injuries did not throw the team off.
"We were defending a little bit too naïve and a few bounces in the box allowed Gomez to eventually pulled the trigger," Rongen said. "I don't think that had an effect on either goal."
While Chivas USA needs work on defending against counterattacks, the club also needs work on finishing. Matt Taylor, Thiago Martins and Francisco Mendoza alike had quality chances but could not put the ball on goal.
"We didn't look bad today," Ramirez said. "I thought we looked good on the field in terms of possession of the ball. It's a question in the next game trying to find that offensive punch we lacked today."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.