This wasn’t the homecoming that Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser wanted at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Rojiblancos saw their five-game unbeaten streak ended after a late Will Johnson goal lifted Real Salt Lake over nine-man Chivas, who found themselves down a man early after defender Andrew Boyens picked up two yellow cards in the span of ten minutes.
However, that paled in comparison to what happened in the 38th minute. As RSL midfielder Javier Morales pushed forward on the attack, Chivas attacker Marcos Mondaini made a clumsy tackle from behind that brought Morales down.
Morales broke his ankle on the play and will likely be out for at least four months, the third injury to a notable MLS attacking player in three weeks. Following the match, the Chivas USA head coach was quick to support Mondaini.
WATCH: Full match highlights
“It was a clumsy challenge. It certainly wasn’t malicious," Fraser said. "It was more like a forward stuck in the midfield having to make tackles. It was a clumsy challenge, but I know 100 percent there was no malicious intent.”
The longtime RSL assistant was one of the first to wish Morales well, whispering to the Argentine as he was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital. Though the mood following the match was understandably somber, it wasn’t a total loss for Chivas.
Down to nine men for 58 minutes, Chivas were able to keep RSL from breaking through until just five minutes from full time. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy made a number of big saves as the Chivas defense desperately looked to preserve the result.
Even though the Rojiblancos eventually capitulated under the pressure, Fraser was proud of the defensive effort shown by his club.
“In the second half, we came out and defended as hard as we could,” Fraser said. “We were down two men against the best team in the league. If we could have walked out of there 0-0, what a result that would have been for us.”
But the focus on this night remains on the actions of Mondaini. The Argentine forward will be suspended at least one game for the foul, but he was quick to offer support to his fellow Argentine Morales and reiterate that he did not intend to injure the RSL star.
“I never go out with bad intentions. I just go out there and play hard,” said Mondaini. “I want to tell Morales that I wish he recovers promptly and I hope he returns to playing soon.”
Chivas USA must try to regroup now with two starters suspended for at least one match. The Rojiblancos will get no favors from the schedule as they head to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls on May 15.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano