FULLERTON, Calif. – Dan Kennedy’s jog from his net to the other end of the field appeared harmless enough. It seemed at first that he would make his way toward the head referee, perhaps to plead for a red card, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Kennedy meant business.
The goalkeeper picked up the ball near the feet of Miller Bolaños – who had just drawn a foul inside the box that awarded Chivas USA a penalty kick – and cashed it in for the go-ahead goal, guiding the Rojiblancos to a 2-1 victory against the LA Blues in a US Open Cup third-round matchup Tuesday night at Titan Stadium.
It was Kennedy’s first goal since high school.
“We struggled with some penalties earlier in the year, so we did some competitions and I came out on top,” Kennedy told reporters. “I think I earned it.”
Kennedy wasn’t joking.
The Goats have struggled offensively in MLS play the last two months, a sour stretch that began with penalty misses by José Correa and Edgar Mejía in one-goal losses on consecutive weeks. In search of answers, head coach José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá has not been afraid to be creative. Kennedy had recently taken a free kick.
“We’ve been practicing all that,” midfielder Eric Avila told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s something different and good to see someone else score, especially our goalkeeper. It doesn’t mean he’ll be taking all the free kicks, but it’s just something we want to do.”
George Davis IV scored 10 minutes in on a deflected shot off Josue Soto that sneaked past Kennedy’s diving attempt to give the Blues a 1-0 advantage. But the substitutions of Avila, Gabriel Farfan and Jorge Villafaña by Chelís sparked better movement in the second half. Midfielder Carlos Alvarez scored the equalizer just seven minutes after the break.
The netminder then turned in his heroics.
“A little relief. I came here expecting to win,” Kennedy said. “These are complicated games for MLS clubs. We’d like a little break, but you’re not allowed to have one, so you keep pushing forward. To respond after going a goal down was good for us.”
The Goats maintained the lead thanks to Kennedy’s brilliant decision in the 69th minute when Rodrigo López had a clean breakaway. Kennedy met López about 20 feet outside the box and knocked the ball away and, two minutes later, denied López again on a masterful one-handed save.
The Goats will face either the LA Galaxy or Carolina RailHawks in the fourth round on June 12.