For nearly 90 minutes on Saturday night, Chivas USA seemed to have truly left 2005 in the history books. The Red-and-White took their first-ever regular season lead over the Galaxy when Ante Razov found the back of the net in the 46th minute and, just six minutes from time, the club seemed headed toward its first-ever win over the rival Los Angeles Galaxy.
But in a scene too often repeated a year ago, Chivas USA collapsed in the final six minutes of regulation and seven-plus minutes of stoppage time as the Galaxy pulled out a stunning 2-1 win in the first Honda Súper Clásico of 2006.
Cornell Glen and Landon Donovan did the damage, the former scoring on two passes from the latter as the duo delivered the knockout blow in what was a pulsating match from start to finish.
The loss put Chivas USA's effort in perspective. A thrilling 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake to start the season has been met with a pair of losses as Chivas fell to 1-2.
"No one said we were world beaters yet," Razov said. "It's a process so we've got to learn from this. It's good that we take a bad taste in our mouths for the next two weeks. It does make you angry a little bit which it should."
Razov scored his third goal in a Chivas jersey just one minute into the second half. Juan Pablo Garcia found Razov alone just outside the six-yard box and Razov one-timed the ball in the back of the net.
It was the first time in five regular-season matchups that Chivas had held a lead over the Galaxy. But the club could not protect its slim lead.
"We didn't do a good enough job of keeping the ball when we went up 1-0," Chivas midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. "We just kind of cleared the ball a lot and kind of sat back. We need to keep the ball moving to kill some time. We didn't do a good enough job of that and they obviously were down our throats a lot."
The Galaxy's first goal seemed to catch Chivas off guard. With John O'Brien standing on the sideline, fourth official Baldomero Toledo flashed Francisco Mendoza's No. 6 with his board while assistant referee Chris Strickland held up his flag. Despite all that, however, referee Kevin Stott continued play.
"The referee looked over like he was going to wave (O'Brien) on the field," Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley said. "The fourth official stood there with the number up, the linesman had his flag up and at the last second the referee waved to play on."
On the throw-in, Donovan flicked a header over a pair of Chivas defenders and Glen ran on to it and slipped it past a stunned Brad Guzan.
"We got unlucky," Kljestan said. "We didn't clear a ball in the box and Donovan got a nice header and flick-over and (Glen) touched it in. There just wasn't enough clean defending in the box."
With the game still in the balance, the Galaxy sprang a counterattack on Chivas. Donovan collected a turnover near the middle of the field and bore down on Chivas defenders. He froze Claudio Suarez and found Glen alone on the left side of the penalty area. Again, Glen surprised Guzan with a first-time shot that rolled into the back of the net.
"They caught us in a bad position," Suarez said. "We got the marking mixed up."
Not only did Chivas fail to hold the lead, they failed to build on it. Saturday's hosts had several opportunities to double their lead but were thwarted by a strong Galaxy defense and a solid effort by Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Razov nearly scored in the 66th minute but Hartman turned away a point-blank header by Razov.
"After we took the lead, we had stretches where we played very well," Bradley said. "We pushed to get a second goal to try to finish the match and we didn't and we paid the price."
Said Razov: "If we get it, the game's over but we didn't and they kept going forward. Give them credit. We can't do anything about it now."
Afterward, the locker room was somber. Several players, including Francisco Palencia, sat quietly by their lockers in apparent anger. Bradley and assistant coach Zak Abdel were heard shouting, also in apparent anger, at different times in the coaches' offices. Club co-owner Antonio Cué walked around and tried to console and comfort the grief-stricken players.
Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch said he maintains his positive outlook for the club.
"We're still a young team. We've been together for three months so we have lessons to learn. I still feel good about our team. I still feel good about our players," Marsch said. "There's passion with this team. You can see the passion with the fans. There's a good group of guys in this locker room and we have a great coaching staff, a great front office, a great owner.
"It's a pleasure to play for this club. My feelings don't change about any of that just because we lost a tough game. I feel like we let our fans down a little bit tonight but we'll learn from it and get better."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.