As New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul mishandled Jesús Padilla’s speculative shot across his own goal line in the 47th minute of Saturday’s match, there was a collective sigh of relief from the crowd at the Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA’s first goal of the season.
The Goats’ first notch of 2010 may not have been spectacular, but it didn’t need to be. It was enough to jump-start what had, until that point, been a sagging Chivas USA offense.
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But no longer. The Red-and-White played out the rest of the game with a kind of swagger in their step, controlling much of the tempo and netting a second goal in the 90th minute just for insurance.
When the final whistle blew, there were a few more “firsts” to add to the list for Saturday’s match. First win of the season. First points of the season. And first win as a head coach for Martín Vásquez.
“I’m a little emotional right now because of the win,” Vásquez said at the postgame press conference. “There were a lot of things that we have to fix, and they’re fixable, but I’m very proud of how my team responded after those first two loses. It wasn’t pretty at times, but we got the result.”
Saturday’s match provided a first glimpse of the kind of team that Chivas USA will likely become under Vásquez’s care. Dangerous on offense. Attack-minded play. Quick touches and rapid counterattacks. For the first time in 2010, all the pieces seemed to finally snap into place.
“Our morale is definitely better now,” Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan said. “We’re happy to have one win, but we still have a lot of work to do. We just have to look forward and try to get more points from every game.”
Much of the Goats’ success came from a new-look lineup that handed Darío Delgado and Chukwudi Chijindu their first starts of the season, and that pushed Jonathan Bornstein up into the midfield. All three proved to be decisive components in the victory.
“It was great having Johnny up the field a little bit,” said Kljestan. “He made good runs to stretch the defense and he’s very experienced on the ball. And I think Darío slid right in and did a good job. We’re very happy for him.”
“Chukwudi stepped in and was a handful for their defense all night,” he continued. “He never stopped working over 90 minutes. I’m proud of him. He’s worked super hard in training to get on the field and we’re glad that Martín rewarded him and that he stepped up to the plate today.”
Perhaps the biggest contribution of the day came from Padilla, who caused the first goal and scored the second.
“[Padilla] brought energy and hunger,” said Vásquez. “He’s not afraid of shooting or making things happen. Now we can build on his game going forward.”
Chivas USA will now travel to Houston for the team’s first road trip of the season. The Red-and-White have never won in Texas, but will be looking to break that streak next Saturday.
“We have to go into Houston knowing that it’s going to be a very hard game and that we have to be solid defensively,” said Kljestan. “I think we’ll be okay.”