CARSON, Calif. — Heading into the second SuperClasico of the season, Chivas USA had a bit of momentum on their side, a bit of a rarity for the club in this series.
Chivas beat the LA Galaxy in May, the first time in nearly five years they’d accomplished that feat. Having lost just once in their last nine games, the Red-and-White had a bit of confidence to draw from as well.
But an uncharacteristically untidy performance by Chivas canceled out whatever positives the club brought into the game as the Galaxy snatched the victory in a rather convincing 3-1 manner.
“They’re a good enough team that they don’t need any help,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “If we make critical mistakes at critical points, they’re certainly good enough to capitalize.”
The result was also troubling, as it kept Chivas from gaining ground on the Galaxy, who, with the win, turned a four-point lead over Chivas into a seven-point edge. While Chivas have three games in hand over the Galaxy, the distance is still quite a challenge to overcome.
Chivas had entered the match with the stingiest defense in MLS, having allowed a league-low 18 goals on the season. From the start, though, the Galaxy attack promised to threaten the Red-and-White. What certainly didn't help matters was Chivas’ own passing from the back. On a seemingly innocent buildup from the back, Blair Gavin tried to find Ryan Smith, but Smith took off as Gavin sent the ball behind him and a few Galaxy touches later the Galaxy were up 1-0.
Full Highlights: LA 3, CHV 1
“It definitely feels like a self-inflicted wound,” Fraser said. “For the rest of the half we had moments where we just turned the ball over in bad spots, kept ourselves under pressure.”
Perhaps the wounds began from within, Chivas players conceded.
“Maybe we gave them a little too much respect, certainly in the beginning,” Chivas captain Danny Califf said. “We know that they’ve been scoring a lot of goals, so maybe it’s in the back of our head coming in that we needed to make sure we were good defensively. But by that token, we were dropping off too much and allowing them too much space to get a rhythm and get their heads up.”
The Galaxy doubled their advantage just two minutes into the second half when Landon Donovan scored on a breakaway. Still, Chivas showed some resolve. Paolo Cardozo, who had replaced Gavin at the intermission, fired a shot past Josh Saunders from some 22 yards out as Chivas pulled one back.
“In the second half, we certainly had a couple of bright spells where we were aggressive, created a goal and were pushing for a while there so we definitely had good moments,” Fraser said. “But at the end of the day, self-inflicted wounds was the story for us.”
Cardozo, the former Galaxy player, notched his first MLS goal, but as special as the moment was for himself, the memory will be tinged by the result.
“It was good to at least give us some hope but sad because we lost it. Just have to keep working for it,” Cardozo said. “It was nice to have scored, but it didn’t do any good.”
The goal, though, was merely a footnote as Donovan buried a ball off a scramble in front of the goal off a corner kick. Having given the Galaxy too many opportunities hurt Chivas.
“When you start chasing the game, you start opening yourself up to counterattacks,” Califf said. “It’s not a good thing to be in a track meet with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.”
In the end, though, the club battled, even after going down 3-1. With better marksmanship, perhaps the result could have been different.
“We had some chances. It’s been our Achilles heel this year — we haven’t put away our chances,” Chivas defender Ante Jazic said. "We created chances to get back into the game, but it’s tough when we gave up that third one on the set piece. The guys’ heads didn’t drop. They played for the 90 minutes.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter: @RunnerLuis