CARSON, Calif. – The MLS season is more than six months old, yet Chivas USA might still be searching for their first break.
It certainly didn’t arrive Saturday night in a 1-1 draw against the visiting Portland Timbers, though replays showed they might have deserved one.
After letting a lead slip away early in the second half, the Rojiblancos pestered another playoff contender for their eighth point in the last five matches, but there was a feeling that they probably should have gotten a shot at more when Erick “Cubo” Torres was brought down by goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts inside the penalty box in the 68th minute. Head referee Matthew Foerster did not agree and Chivas were left to wonder about what might have been had Torres been awarded a penalty kick.
The 20-year-old striker was cool-headed in the locker room afterward, even though he had stud marks on his right hip to prove there was contact with the veteran goalkeeper.
“The referee made the decision but, in my opinion, it was a clear penalty,” Torres told reporters. “I respect the decision, but the goalkeeper stopped me with his right foot.”
Despite the apparent lack of luck, the Goats have gotten at least one point in six of their last seven home matches. Torres has been a major reason for the turnaround, scoring seven goals in his first 10 games.
The offensive production has been noteworthy, but it’s been his adjustment to heightened physicality in MLS that has impressed head coach José Luis “Guero” Real, who also wasn't overly animated.
“For me, it was a penalty, clearly,” Real told reporters. “But it’s not the biggest reason why we tied. We had two or three other opportunities to win the game.”
The valiant performance against the Timbers, who had dominated the clubs’ previous meeting in Portland, did not go unnoticed by director of soccer Francisco Palencia. The Chivas USA executive shook hands with players and made sure to stop by Torres’ locker for a quick chat.
Torres, the only forward in the lineup Saturday, battled by himself atop the formation and fell inside the box again late in the second half. Foerster again looked his way and shook his head.
“They let you play here,” Torres said. “The referees allow plays to go on. It’s very physical and very different from Mexican soccer.”