CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA may have endured a frustrating 1-1 draw on Wednesday against Vancouver, but there was a clear signal that things are starting to improve.
Injured quartet Tristan Bowen, Seth Owusu, Mike Lahoud and Paulo Nagamura returned to the game-day squad after lengthy absences due to injury. The latter pair each went 30 minutes in the draw, performing well enough for head coach Robin Fraser to call their inclusion a “bright spot” in the match.
The match against the Whitecaps was the first for Lahoud, who has recovered from a concussion suffered in the May 15 game against the New York Red Bulls. However, the biggest return was that of Nagamura, who played in just his second fixture this season — and his first since April — because of a calf strain suffered during preseason.
“Thirty minutes is about right because I was struggling a little at the end," Nagamura said. “The game opened up at the end, but it’s something that I have to work on as I get my fitness back so I can be ready to play more minutes.”
Only six minutes after Lahoud and Nagamura came on, a red card to Eric Hassli gave Chivas USA a man advantage. Lahoud and Nagamura both played an integral role in the attack as the Rojiblancos pressed for the go-ahead goal; however, it was Nagamura who ultimately had the bigger impact. The Brazilian midfielder’s composed passing helped create the basis for his team's push toward goal.
“[Nagamura] sprays the ball great, hits a great ball,” midfielder Nick LaBrocca said. “There's never a sense of panic.”
Nagamura is confident he can work his way back into being a fixture on the Chivas USA starting lineup.
"It’s been a long three months off and I’ve missed most of the preseason, so it’s been tough for me,” Nagamura said. “Now I feel much better and stronger, so now I need to work on my fitness and be ready to play for Chivas.”
Julio Martínez rumors squashed
A Chivas USA official confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that reports out of El Salvador linking the Rojiblancos to midfielder Julio Martínez were untrue.
The reports had stated that Martínez had arrived in Los Angeles for a trial, but the team official confirmed that the Salvadoran international would not be joining Chivas USA.
Martínez spent last season with Salvadoran club Alianza after spending the first half of 2010 with the Chicago Fire. He made three appearances for the Fire under former El Salvador national coach Carlos de los Cobos before being released in June of 2010.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano