CARSON, Calif. — When the goals come for Justin Braun, they come in bunches.
The mercurial Chivas USA forward tallied all three goals in the Goats' 3-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. The victory snapped Chivas' five-year, 12-game winless drought against the Dynamo but, more importantly, extended their current unbeaten in league play run to five games.
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It was the second time this season that Braun scored a hat trick and, coincidentally, the second ever in Chivas USA’s six-year history. For a forward who has gone through a bit of a drought of late, the scoring outburst was more than welcome.
“I went through a dry spell there, but it’s definitely good to get that weight off my shoulders,” Braun told reporters after the match. “But the most important thing is that the team came out and played well collectively and we were able to get three points, which we needed.”
On Saturday, Braun was the beneficiary of head coach Robin Fraser’s tinkering with the Chivas midfield, in which he decided to place five men in the center of the park in order to control possession against Houston. This move freed up space for Braun to make runs as the midfielders Blair Gavin and Nick LaBrocca interchanged frequently, allowing Braun to attack centrally and get his chances at net. It was a decision that appeared to invigorate a forward who has been going through a difficult run of form of late.
Goals have been hard to come by for Braun since his first hat trick in New York back in May. In the nearly two-month stretch since his explosion at Red Bull Arena, Braun has scored just once for the Rojiblancos. That prompted the fourth-year forward to go back to the drawing board in training to work on his touch and timing. While the road hasn't always been easy, Saturday’s performance showed the fruits of his labor are finally beginning to show.
“We’ve been talking a lot about his positioning and as we’ve said all along, this is a process,” said Fraser. “Things are going to click at certain times for different players and I thought tonight, he did a really good job of being in good spots.”
The hat trick not only elevated the Rojiblancos in the standings to the 10th overall spot, but also allowed Braun to pass Maykel Galindo for second all-time in Chivas USA’s scoring tally with 19 goals. That mark is also second only to Ante Razov’s 30 goals in the Chivas USA record books.
For Braun, the hope is that with more hard work and perseverance, the goals will begin to come for frequently. The Goats will need the effort as they begin an epic five-game road trip starting next week at FC Dallas.
“[The work] paid off," said Brau. "Hopefully I can keep using it and keep scoring some goals. I did a little work this week and it’s something I’ve been trying to work on with the coaches, but when you get good balls like that, I’m just on the end of it and it makes the finishing much easier.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano