CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA are still working out the kinks this preseason, but they did find some promising signs on Tuesday despite a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids at the Home Depot Center in their first match against MLS competition.
The finest moments came during the first half when the Goats offense looked particularly solid, with Juan Pablo Ángel spearheading the attack while wide players Mike Lahoud and Ryan Smith challenged the Rapids back line, creating several chances at net.
Smith (above) nearly scored in the 42nd minute when he fired a left-footed shot that rattled the cross bar. The former Kansas City man says he’s enjoying combining with Lahoud.
“When he’s crossing the ball, I’m at the back and trying to get on the end of it and likewise with myself, but I like it,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s exciting, I think; our fans want to be entertained and we’re both direct players and I think we can bring that this year.”
Lopes returns to action
Defender David Júnior Lopes made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, going 30 minutes in the second half. Partnered alongside trialist Rauwshan McKenzie, the pair performed well facing off against a predominantly first-choice Rapids lineup.
Lopes joined the club last August and made eight appearances in 2011, missed the first two weeks of preseason camp due to visa issues. Since arriving from Brazil, he has drawn rave reviews from club staff for his impressive conditioning.
Following his first game action since October, head coach Robin Fraser was pleased with his defender performance.
“He was fine, his covering positions were decent and he was able to step in and win some challenges,” Fraser told reporters. “Thirty minutes was about appropriate for where he was at and how much he’s played. We just wanted to get him, get him to get a feel for it and we’ll see how he progresses as we go forward.”
Trialists battle for roster spots
Two of the most intriguing players in Chivas USA’s trialist-laded second-half roster were forward Cesar Romero and midfielder Kennedy Chongo. Both went 45 minutes during the second frame, providing the Chivas coaching staff with plenty to think about as they fight for spots on the roster.
Both players faced off against MLS competition for the first time in their stint with the Rojiblancos. Chongo, a speedy winger who grew up in Zambia but attended school at nearby Biola University, impressed with his speed and vision during the match.
During his two weeks with the club, Fraser has appeared intrigued by the young winger, even admitting that Chongo reminds him “a bit” of US international DaMarcus Beasley.
Meanwhile, Romero, a former US U-18 international who spent the last several years playing indoor soccer, has shown an ability to be a ruthless finisher during his stint with Chivas USA. Scoring last week against FC Hasental, Romero once again had his opportunities against the Rapids, but was unable to find the back of the net.
“It was interesting to see how some of the players who have done well come up against MLS competition and see how they did,” said Fraser. “It’s all part of the learning process for us and them.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com