CARSON, Calif. - Much to the dismay of the Kansas City Wizards, Chivas USA closed out the season in much the same fashion as their first 31 games, falling to the MetroStars 2-0 at The Home Depot Center on Sunday in the final regular-season match of the 2005 campaign.
Tony Meola made a remarkable string of saves and Michael Bradley and Amado Guevara scored second-half goals to give the MetroStars the victory. The result sent the MetroStars through to the playoffs at the Wizards' expense.
Chivas, meanwhile, had long ago been eliminated from playoff contention. Sunday's loss sealed the club's fate at the bottom of the league table as Chivas USA's 18 points were two fewer than Real Salt Lake's.
Still, it was not for lack of trying. Chivas used pretty much the same lineup the club had used throughout the final stretch of the season.
The first half was marred by missed chances and timely MetroStars saves. Francisco Mendoza missed a golden opportunity in the sixth minute. MetroStars defender Jason Hernandez tried to send a ball to 'keeper Tony Meola, but the ball trickled slow enough to allow Mendoza the chance to reach it ahead of a sliding Meola.
But as it rolled toward an empty net, Carlos Mendes cleared the ball off the line at the last possible moment. Mendoza then tried to put a bouncing ball on goal but his shot hit the side of the net.
Chivas kept the pressure on as the MetroStars, despite needing a victory for a playoff spot, were on the defensive throughout the start of the match. Juan Pablo Garcia had a pair of opportunities that were blocked, first by MetroStars defenders and then by Meola.
After the furious opening flurry by Chivas, the match settled down a quarter-hour in and the defenses began to stand firm. Ezra Hendrickson kept the MetroStars from scoring in the 32nd minute. With Sergio Garcia off his line, MetroStars forward Sergio Galvan Rey had an open shot on goal from the left side of the area. But Hendrickson did well to reach the ball and knock it out of bounds.
Chivas striker Antonio Martinez came on in the 35th minute for skipper Ramon Ramirez, who could not continue due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the first minute. The face of the team throughout the entire season, Ramirez finished missed only one match the entire season, and that was due to a suspension. The longtime Mexican national team star finished with 2,571 minutes played for the expansion side.
Garcia had a clear look on goal in the 37th minute after Matt Taylor spotted Garcia open inside the area. Meola, however, collected Garcia's 15-yard shot.
The second half started off much the same way most second halves have gone for Chivas. Mark Lisi whipped a cross outside the left side of the penalty area after a corner wasn't completely cleared, and Michael Bradley knocked a glancing header past Garcia for the game's opening goal.
Amado Guevara nearly doubled the lead within minutes but his breakaway attempt hit the post. Then nearly 10 minutes later, Youri Djorkaeff had another wide-open opportunity on an empty net but the former French international inexplicably hit the post from nearly the same spot that Guevara's shot had.
Like most other matches, Chivas threw numbers forward in the second half in search of the equalizer. Both of the MetroStars' shots off the post came on counterattacks.
In the 63rd minute, striker Isaac Romo came on for Jesus Ochoa, a move that essentially left the club without a holding midfielder. Romo's entrance nearly paid immediate dividends as Meola saved his bicycle kick from close range.
Minutes later, Taylor nearly drew a MetroStars red card when he broke free behind the visitors' defense. Jeff Agoos clipped Taylor some 30 yards out but referee Kevin Stott let Agoos off easy as he booked the veteran defender even though only Meola stood between Taylor and the goal.
Romo rattled the woodwork in the 73rd minute after a splendid cross from Arturo Torres. Romo leapt over the MetroStars defense and had Meola beat but the ball smacked the crossbar.
Meola did well to clear a deflected shot from Garcia. "El Loquito" shook loose from Lisi along the right flank and fired a ball onto the net. Lisi deflected the ball and Meola made a diving save and pushed the ball over the crossbar.
In the 85th minute, Meola again made a stellar save. This time, it was Taylor who was open inside the area but Meola dived to his left and stopped Taylor's header.
With Chivas pushing forward in search of the equalizer, it was the MetroStars' Guevara who broke free and scored a goal on a counterattack in stoppage time, finishing off the match with a sublime chip from outside the area that floated over Garcia.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Tony Meola (MetroStars)