CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA have been anchored by Heath Pearce throughout their entire season. In one moment on Saturday night, the Rojiblancos had their leader in the back taken from them, encapsulating one of their most frustrating games of the season in a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.
In the 59th minute, with the team up a man and pressing for an equalizer, Pearce went down and forced a substitution that caused Chivas to play with a makeshift back line for the rest of the match. The “freak” injury, as Pearce described, was a devastating one for a defender who had up until then had played every minute for the Rojiblancos this season and just recently been called up for US national-team duty.
“It wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary,” he explained after the match. “I wasn’t running hard, I wasn’t sprinting hard, I remember cutting gently to my left and I just felt a pop in my [right] hamstring. Trainers say it is swelling and they think it is a tear."
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“Hopefully, I can get an MRI and be able to assess how bad it is," he continued. "I hope that it’s nothing and that it’s a minor strain, but [team trainers] seem confident otherwise so we’ll get an MRI and speak more specifically soon.”
Losing Pearce was a microcosm of Chivas USA’s struggles throughout the night. Whether it was a defensive miscue in just the 10th minute by Ante Jazic that led to the decisive goal or the fact that the Goats failed to equalize despite playing with a man advantage for more than an hour, it was a night of what could go wrong, went wrong.
Time and time again, the Goats were able to control possession — particularly in the first half — but they couldn’t translate that into quality chances, leading to a great deal of frustration from head coach Robin Fraser.
“We moved the ball well in the first half, very quickly and very urgently and put ourselves into great serving positions,” said Fraser. “We pretty much had them in pressure the rest of the first half, so to come out in the second half without enough energy was not enough.”
As Chivas USA look to put the result behind them, their focus falls to their injured leader, who they hope to have on the field once again when they face D.C. United on Sept. 10.
“We have almost two weeks, and we know that muscle injuries can heal in that time,” said Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed for Heath and we hope that he’ll be alright.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano