CARSON, Calif. - For one half, Chivas USA stood toe-to-toe with the playoff-bound Colorado Rapids. Chivas opened the scoring and Colorado answered right back but it was Chivas who had taken the initiative and the attack toward the Rapids net.
But all the positives from the first half came crashing down on a penalty kick shortly after the break that Chivas USA players and coaches felt was unjust. Colorado scored on the spot kick and held on to defeat Chivas 3-1 at The Home Depot Center on Saturday.
"In my opinion, it was not a penalty. It was never a penalty," Chivas coach Hans Westerhof said.
On the play, Chivas defender Ezra Hendrickson knocked the ball loose from Jovan Kirovski, who tumbled over Hendrickson onto the pitch. Referee Marcel Yonan whistled a penalty kick and Chivas players appeared furious. Kirovski buried the ball into the upper netting and essentially sealed the match.
"They get a somewhat suspect PK call and that changes the game. Now we're chasing the game," Hendrickson said. "I definitely got the ball. I didn't feel any contact at all; if I did (make contact), minimal contact. It was a situation where I came from his blind side. He showed the ball. I tackled the ball and the call was made. That goes for you sometimes and against you sometimes. Unfortunately for us, it's been more against us than for us."
Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan was standing mere feet from the play and questioned whether the correct call was made.
"To be honest, I don't know if it's a PK. The referee makes a decision and you have to live with it. I think Ezra got the ball before the man but at the end of the day you've got to keep playing. They're not going to change their decision so you have to keep playing," Guzan said.
It was just another tough-luck loss in a season filled with them. Chivas led an opponent for the seemingly umpteenth time and for as many times squandered the lead. The Rapids' equalizer came without question - a timely cross from Eric Denton and a sure finish from Jean-Philippe Peguero. But it was the game-winner that left a sour and all too familiar taste in the players' mouths.
"We haven't gotten any bounces yet," Hendrickson said. "I imagine sooner or later our fortunes are going to change and we're going to get some luck our way but there are only three games left."
The loss mirrored many of the club's 20 other defeats: Chivas initiated the attack and held a lead for the 10th time this season. However, for the seventh time Chivas could not close out the game ahead.
Chivas had six shots on goal and 14 total in the match. Also, Chivas had a goal nullified by an offside call. Despite piling up on scoring opportunities, the club came away empty-handed.
"We played well. We created chances. We scored but had a goal taken away," Chivas midfielder Juan Pablo Garcia said. "It just feels like it's a thorn in our sides. They gave a penalty kick to the other team. It's difficult to deal with because you know you're playing well and you have scoring chances."
Still, after yet another difficult defeat, Hendrickson, the club's emotional leader, said the team is not going to quit.
"We work hard all week. We work hard during the games also. It's always one or two bounces that don't go our way and that's the game," Hendrickson said. "We're going to keep our heads up and keep working and just finish the season strong."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.