It took six matches but Chivas USA finally got it right. Hector Cuadros converted a penalty kick, Brad Guzan stood firm and the Red-and-White's defense had its most complete effort of the season as Chivas USA beat fellow expansion club Real Salt Lake 1-0 at The Home Depot Center on Saturday.
Chivas USA modified its starting lineup and formation yet again. A week after scrapping its three-striker alignment, Chivas USA started one striker -- Thiago Martins -- and featured five midfielders and four defenders. The lineup featured several firsts. Armando Begines made his debut while Francisco Mendoza got his first start.
Five of the seven players brought up from Chivas de Guadalajara started: Ramon Ramirez, Cuadros and Mendoza in the midfield and Alfonso Loera and Begines in the back. The Red-and-White's only U.S.-born starters were Guzan, Ryan Suarez and Orlando Perez.
Although the club came out in a 4-5-1 formation but Mendoza and Cuadros were essentially filling in for Matt Taylor and Arturo Torres, respectively. For much of the first half, Chivas USA looked like it was feeling out its formation. It took a while for the club to put any real pressure on Real Salt Lake.
For the first quarter-hour, neither club took the initiative. Chivas USA had more possession but broke down offensively in RSL's third of the field. In the seventh minute, Cuadros flicked a header on goal but the shot went just wide of the goal.
In the 19th minute, Orlando Perez found Martins open eight yards out but his header bounced weakly to Real Salt Lake's D.J. Countess.
Chivas USA's numbers in the defense and midfield gave Real Salt Lake attackers little space. Suarez and Loera, who played in the center of the defense and rarely pushed forward, did well to clear balls wide and break down RSL's attack.
Chivas USA nearly broke through in the 33rd minute. Mendoza got the ball near midfield and darted up the left wing. Inside the penalty box, he slotted a pass across the goalmouth. The ball went past Countess but Marlon Rojas beat Cuadros to the ball and cleared it out of bounds.
But Rojas wasn't as lucky two minutes, when Chivas USA won a penalty kick. Cuadros attempted a cross from the right side of the box and the ball hit Rojas in the arm as he stood right on the line, referee Terry Vaughn immediately giving the penalty.
Cuadros found the back of the net with the well-placed spot kick. Countess dived to his right but Cuadros' shot went above the 'keeper's reach into the upper right corner of the net and Chivas USA took its first-ever lead on the penalty kick, which was the first ever awarded to the club.
Three minutes into the second half, Chivas USA nearly scored their second goal. Ramirez sailed a free kick into the box from 35 yards out. Suarez ran onto it and flicked it to the far post. Begines headed the shot on goal but Countess plucked the ball out of mid-air right on the goal line.
Real Salt Lake pushed forward afterward and nearly broke through in the 56th minute but Guzan stopped Jason Kreis' point-blank shot with his chest. The shot culminated a long stretch that saw Real Salt Lake put its first sustained pressure in Chivas USA's third.
Ramirez nearly scored his first MLS goal in the 71st minute. Cuadros sent a perfect cross from the right wing. Ramirez found space and headed the ball but Countess dived to his right and stopped the ball on the goal line.
Less than one minute later, Hendrickson nearly doubled Chivas USA's lead. Hendrickson sliced through Real Salt Lake's defense and charged on goal but his eight-yard shot sailed over the goal. Hendrickson had teammates Mendoza and Martins open to his left.
Ramirez nearly put an exclamation mark on the match with more than 10 minutes from time. On a Chivas USA counterattack, Countess stopped Mendoza's sliding shot. The ball bounced up to the top of the area and Martins sent the ball to the right side of the box. Ramirez's bicycle kick was stopped by Countess.
After the play, Countess fell to the ground clutching his left shoulder and had to leave the game. Real Salt Lake had used up its three substitutions by the 76th minute. Midfielder Brian Kamler took over in goal and Real Salt Lake was left with 10 men.
Guzan kept Real Salt Lake with a pair of stellar saves in the 82nd minute. Second-half substitute Dipsy Selolwane struck from eight yards out but Guzan kicked the ball clear but the ball bounced to Leslie Fitzpatrick, who fired a laser on goal. Guzan dived and stopped the shot, which was headed for the back of the net.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Hector Cuadros (Chivas USA)
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Real Salt Lake (1-2-2) vs. CD Chivas USA (0-4-1)
May 07, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
CHV -- Hector Cuadros 2 (penalty kick) 39
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess, Marlon Rojas, Brian Dunseth (Dipsy Selolwane 72), Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari, Chris Brown, Brian Kamler, Leslie Fitzpatrick, Andy Williams (Leighton O'Brien 46), Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis (Evan Whitfield 31).
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Behncke, Jay Nolly.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Jason Kreis 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Jason Kreis 3); FOULS: 14 (Brian Dunseth 3); OFFSIDES: 1 (Jason Kreis 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Leighton O'Brien 2); SAVES: 5 (D.J. Countess 5)
CD Chivas USA -- Brad Guzan, Armando Begines, Alfonso Loera, Douglas Sequeira, Ryan Suarez, Ezra Hendrickson, Hector Cuadros, Francisco Mendoza, Ramon Ramirez (Jesus Ochoa 85), Orlando Perez, Thiago Martins.
Substitutes Not Used: Victor Arbelaez, Javier Barragan, Milton Blanco, Christian Jimenez, Antonio Martinez, Isaac Romo, Matt Taylor, Arturo Torres.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Hector Cuadros 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Ramon Ramirez 2); FOULS: 8 (4 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 9 (Hector Cuadros 4); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Orlando Perez 2, Ramon Ramirez 2); SAVES: 4 (Brad Guzan 4)
CHV -- Alfonso Loera (caution; Tackle from Behind) 49
RSL -- Marlon Rojas (caution; Pushing, Holding) 57
RSL -- Evan Whitfield (caution; Reckless Foul) 76
RSL -- Jason Kreis (caution; Dissent) 85
CHV -- Armando Begines (caution; Delaying a Restart) 94+
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: -Steven Davidson; Jose Corro
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.