CARSON, Calif. -- Bobby Burling made a game-saving clearance in the waning moments and Marco Delgado prevented an earlier goal at the line, but the heroics of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy were foremost on everyone's mind following Chivas USA's 3-2 upset of the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center.
Kennedy stopped a pair of golden opportunities for New York’s Fabian Espindola in the first half, giving the Goats hope of shocking the Eastern Conference’s second-place team. He made correct reads on centering passes, organized a backline that included a lineup newcomer in Burling and an 18-year-old in Delgado, and managed to leave yet another lasting impression on head coach José Luis “Guero” Real.
“Without a doubt, Kennedy saved us in the first half,” Real told reporters following his second win since taking the helm. “I’m sure much of our victory we owe to him. But it wasn’t only what he did [Sunday]; he’s always in top quality.”
In a match that featured a brace from 20-year-old forward Erick “Cubo” Torres scoring and one from 19-year-old forward Julio Morales notching his first career goal, it was the 31-year-old veteran who made it possible for the Goats to pull off the stunner, even if the sheet didn’t stay clean.
Kennedy, who was credited with four saves, made his most electrifying one in the 21st minute when Thierry Henry found a streaking Espindola alone in front of goal. Espindola fired from point-blank range, but Kennedy made an instinctual save to keep the game scoreless. This sequence came after an earlier denial of Espindola in a one-on-one situation.
Chivas USA (5-14-6) weathered the early onslaught, and that’s what they needed in order to cap off their three-game home stand in winning fashion.
“You know when you’re playing a team with the quality that New York has, you’re going to have to come up with something,” Kennedy told reporters after the match. “We came up with big defensive stops and big goals. It feels great.”
The last-place Rojiblancos, who had not scored two goals in a match since April and won only once since March, gave up both of their goals on set pieces Sunday. That didn’t appear to worry the defenders, who praised Kennedy for his performance.
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“He’s a good shot-stopper,” Carlos Bocanegra said after the match. “I like that he’s aggressive and makes his decision. If he’s coming out, he’s out. He’s a good goalkeeper and, obviously, it’s nice to have him in the back because he gives us confidence. We let [New York] behind us, but he made a few good saves for us. When the goalie picks you up, that’s always big for the defenders.”
The last-minute hero also acknowledged the goalkeeper.
“It was the least we could do after what he did in the first half,” Burling said. “He’s done it all year for us. He keeps us in games and makes big saves.”
Blair Angulo covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com.