CARSON, Calif. – Late into their match against the Chicago Fire, the stars seemed to be aligning for Chivas USA’s first result at the Home Depot Center in the 2012 season.
The club had scored its first goal of the season at home and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was providing his share of brilliant saves. But just seconds from full the final whistle, it all slipped away from the Rojiblancos.
HIGHLIGHTS: CHV 1, CHI 2
Marco Pappa’s goal from the edge of the arc in the third minute of stoppage time resigned Chivas to a 2-1 defeat and their fifth straight loss at home this season. After a hard-fought game, the Rojiblancos were understandably distraught after yet another home defeat.
“I’m a loss for words, it’s heartbreaking, it’s heartbreaking,” Kennedy told reporters after the defeat. “I guess maybe we were pushing for the goal in the last five minutes there and maybe we should have just sat our numbers in midfield back a little bit further and made sure we got the draw, but we want to win at home.”
Things appeared to be coming together for the Rojiblancos early as the club was motivated with a new 4-4-2 formation that had the it on the front foot early. In the 23rd minute when Juan Pablo Ángel scored off a penalty kick for the club’s first goal of the season at the HDC – breaking a scoreless streak of 382 minutes without a goal at home.
But just two minutes later, Chicago would answer when defender Austin Berry scored his first career MLS goal, finishing off a rainbow pass from Sebastián Grazzini. From there, Chivas continued to press ahead, in hopes of earning their first victory at home, even forcing a pair of saves from Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Although Pappa’s stoppage time heroics were decisive, the Rojiblancos believed that it was in fact Berry’s equalizer just minutes from Ángel’s goal that proved truly costly.
“You would have thought that from there on out, we would have done better, but we were not able to hold onto the lead for too long and really get into a rhythm after that,” said forward Alejandro Moreno. “It was nice to get on the scoreboard here at home and it was nice to create some opportunities in the final third in the first half.
“But when you give up the tying goal so quickly,” Moreno added, “it allows them to go back to whatever shape that they want to play instead of forcing them to come out and allow us to exploit some more spaces in the final third.”
The defeat was not the only lowlight for the Rojiblancos, who must deal with renewed concern about Ángel after he had collided heads with Chicago Fire defender Gonzalo Segares on a corner kick in the second half. The Colombian, who was making his third appearance for the Rojiblancos after missing five games due to concussion symptoms, admitted that he needed to assess whether there was any damage on the play.
“So far, I feel alright, I just have to make sure coming out of a concussion that everything is fine,” Ángel told reporters. “It was a knock and if you see the replay, it was just a weird incident, but right now it’s hard to assess, but hopefully it’s just a simple knock.”
After a gut-wrenching loss against Chicago, the road does not get any easier for the Rojiblancos, who will travel to Northern California to take on the white-hot San Jose Earthquakes. Chivas will be forced to do so without tenacious midfielder Oswaldo Minda, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 16th minute and will be suspended for the club’s next match.
But for all his club’s struggles at home, Chivas boss Robin Fraser has a simple message for his team.
“Persevere,” said a blunt Fraser. “We don’t really have an option. That’s what you do. We have abundance of players that are capable players and as a group, we have to persevere.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.