Here’s a date Chivas USA certainly remember well: Oct. 4, 2008. It was the last time the Red-and-White scored more than two goals in a single game.
Until Saturday night.
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Chivas USA finally broke their nearly 18-month two-goal curse against San Jose in a 3-2 victory over the visiting Earthquakes. Gone was the team that crumbled under the pressure of Houston last week, having been replaced by a young, dynamic squad that bristled with confidence.
“Finally, we had 90 minutes of the way we want to play,” said Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez. “Against Houston, I didn’t think that we had the right attitude, at least in the first half. But today, we were tested and our guys responded. This is going to help our team. Especially for our players, who continue to believe in what we’re doing. We’re going to have a good chance to be successful.”
Much of the Red-and-White’s success was driven by team captain Sacha Kljestan. The fourth-year midfielder enjoyed a dominating performance, once again staking a claim for his place on the U.S. National Team roster at the FIFA World Cup in June.
“[Kljestan] is starting to respond to the responsibility that he has on the field and off the field as a captain,” said Vásquez. “Today, he was our leader and our playmaker. I’m not just saying this because of the great goal that he scored. He was able to dictate the pace, connect and find runners. That’s the leader we want and that’s what’s going to help us be successful.”
Not only was he all over the pitch on Saturday, but Kljestan’s spectacular blast in the 25th minute -- his first tally of the year -- will likely be a strong contender for goal of the week. But as any captain would, he refuses to take all the credit for Chivas USA’s success on the evening.
“You can say from top to bottom, guys had good nights tonight,” said Kljestan. “Justin [Braun] in front of me was all over the place and behind me, Ben [Zemanski] and Blair [Gavin] were awesome. They played great. The back line was good as well. We made it hard for San Jose all night. It’s a good performance.”
The rookie pairing of Zemanski and Gavin was particularly successful against San Jose. The two University of Akron alums, who are now in their fourth year of playing together, worked hard to shut down the Quakes offense and displayed an almost uncanny ability to find one another in tight spots.
“Ben and I have good chemistry,” said Gavin. “We help each other out when we’re in bad situations and we know each other well. We always pick up the workload for each other. It’s nice.”
The big question now is: Will Chivas USA fans have to wait another 18 months for a three-goal game? The answer is likely no. Vásquez has stressed attacking soccer since he arrived in Los Angeles at the end of last year, and the Red-and-White seem to finally have discovered the chemistry they were so badly lacking at the start of 2010.
“Offense was something that we wanted to work on coming into this year,” said Michael Lahoud, who notched his first assist of the season on Chukwudi Chijindu’s 87th-minute goal. “It might take just one game to open the flood gates, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”