What was supposed to be a memorable first-ever meeting between expansion sides Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA Saturday night at The Home Depot Center was instead a forgettable experience for the visitors. RSL dropped a 1-0 decision, providing struggling Chivas USA with their first win in franchise history and suffering a couple major blows in the process.
The game's only goal came through somewhat controversial circumstances, Hector Cuadros converting a penalty kick in the 39th minute after a cross from the right hit RSL defender Marlon Rojas in the arm, though he was possibly outside the area.
Adding injury to insult, Real's Clint Mathis went down with what appeared to be a lower back injury early in the match, forcing him to leave the game in the 30th minute and goalkeeper D.J. Countess left the match with a shoulder injury suffered in the 81st minute.
Midfielder Brian Kamler took over in net for Countess because Real coach John Ellinger had used his third and final substitution five minutes earlier. Real finished the match with only 10 men on the field.
RSL's Andy Williams, in only his second game back from injury, was substituted for at halftime, further complicating matters for the visitors.
Heading into Saturday's match, RSL looked every bit the better of the two MLS newcomers with a win and two draws in their first five matches compared to Chivas USA's single point in as many tries.
The opening stanza of the match provided little excitement as both expansion sides struggled to create any meaningful scoring opportunities.
The lack of offense could be partly attributed to both teams preference for a lone striker in starting with 4-5-1 formations, but had more to do with the fact that neither side has been able to effectively generate any consistent offensive attack in their first five matches. Heading into Saturday's match, both teams had combined for a lowly nine goals in 10 matches.
One of RSL's few clear scoring chances of the first half came just two minutes after the opening whistle. Kreis nearly gave the visitors the early lead, taking a Nelson Akwari pass from the edge of the goal area but shooting just wide of the goal and into the side of the net.
After Mathis' early departure, Real were ensured of a long night. Chivas USA controlled much of the possession and forced RSL's defense into a difficult situation, fending off numerous attacks by the home side. RSL defender Eddie Pope's calming presence on the backline, however, helped keep his side within one goal heading into the halftime break.
But Chivas USA broke through after Rojas was ruled to have handled the ball. Cuadros converted the opportunity well, shooting the ball down the middle of the goal, past Countess who dove to his right.
In the 56th minute, Kreis nearly pulled his side even. RSL midfielder Leslie "Tiger" Fitzpatrick passed to Kreis after a nifty step-over in the box but Kreis muffed the point-blank opportunity, shooting directly at Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
In the 71st minute, Countess did well to keep Real within a goal, making a diving stop on the goal line after a close-range Ramon Ramirez header. Then about 10 minutes later, Countess was kicked in the left shoulder by Chivas USA's Francisco Mendoza when the midfielder slid toward the ball and the diving 'keeper. As Ellinger had no more cards to play, Kamler pulled on the jersey of backup goalkeeper Jay Nolly -- yet to appear in an official league match -- pulled on the gloves and went between the posts. However, he was not called upon to touch the ball once in his stint.
With the match looking hopeless, RSL nearly equalized if not for two spectacular saves by goalkeeper Guzan off consecutive shots from Fitzpatrick and Selolwane. A neat centering pass found Selolwane all alone six yards out from goal, but Guzan kicked away his shot. He then recovered quickly to make an acrobatic diving save off Fitzpatrick's shot from distance on the rebound.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Hector Cuadros (Chivas USA)
Danny 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.