Following an exasperating loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend, Chivas USA wanted to prove a point to push the team in the right direction.
On Sunday night, Justin Braun made sure he got the point across.
The young forward scored his first career hat trick and the first in Chivas USA franchise history in a 3-2 win against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, giving him some much-needed respite and the team a statement victory to take back home.
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Braun battled injuries that forced him from the US national team camp at the beginning of the year and has struggled playing out wide for the Rojiblancos this spring. But he was quick to contribute in his first start of the year at forward, and he’s eager to regain the form that that made him the team’s scoring leader in 2010.
Braun scored nine goals last season for Chivas USA, but surprisingly hadn’t scored yet this season until Sunday’s outburst.
“Anytime that you score three goals, it boosts your confidence,” Braun told MLSsoccer.com. “Especially since I was in a bit of a slump, so it was nice to get my first goal tonight, and the other two just came. I was fortunate to get my first hat trick, but we came on the road in a hard place to play and came away with three points. It showed the kind of team that we have.”
Braun’s performance was typical of what Chivas USA have begun to develop since their five-game unbeaten run in April — using a high-energy attack that puts pressure on opposing defenses to create chances. Playing in a role in which the suspended Marcos Mondaini had begun to shine, Braun’s speed and positioning simply proved too difficult for the Red Bulls to handle.
Following his impressive opening goal from the edge of the box in the sixth minute, Braun provided opportunistic goals in the 31st and 56th minutes, getting in the right position to capitalize on fortunate bounces and defensive lapses.
And with Mondaini suspended for the next three matches, Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser couldn’t deny that Braun had likely won his place in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
“Well, a guy scores three goals, what are you going to do?” Fraser told reporters after the match. “He’s certainly come on in games and done well, but tonight certainly was his coming out party for the year. You have a performance like that, you certainly make a statement for yourself.”
Even the typically reserved Braun could not restrain his joy over his spree when he snickered when asked about scoring three goals against legendary forward Thierry Henry’s side, but he admitted that it was the victory, not his individual goals, that was crucial for the Goats.
“It was a big statement for us,” Braun said. “A lot of people haven’t been talking about [Chivas USA], which we don’t mind at all. But to come in and beat one of the so-called best teams in the league at their place is big, and I think people will start talking about us now.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano