CARSON -- The playoff chase isn't yet over for Chivas USA, although it might look like it following Saturday night's 3-0 disaster against D.C. United.
Charlie Davies scored twice in the first 14 minutes, then completed his hat trick in the second half as United (8-7-10) took a huge step toward a postseason berth in the first of two meetings over 12 days.
The Goats (7-11-10), who would have climbed to ninth overall with a victory, came out with little intensity and were quickly finished -- a devastating result in what amounted to a must-win game, a prospect all the more attractive after the four teams directly ahead of them in the overall standings failed to win Saturday.
“Obviously, that’s as bad as it gets,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, whose 10 previous losses were all by one goal. “The disappointing part was that we didn’t give ourselves a chance. So early in the game, to give up goals on simple turnovers that lead to goals is just unacceptable.
“When you’re chasing the game at 2-0, then we get into the second half and give up another goal on a counterattack, tackles being missed and individual small things leading to goals. It’s just not good enough.”
Chivas had more of the ball but little of the game after falling behind, and not much could be done against an organized D.C. defense, which left few gaps to exploit and prevented the Goats from creating much in the final third.
Said forward Juan Pablo Angel: “I don't even know where to start. We were outplayed, outrun. All the things we needed to do today, we didn't do it. The first thing we needed to realize is we were playing for a chance to be in the playoffs, and that was a team that we needed to beat. Especially at home. We weren't up to the standard that we require to win these games. Simple as that.”
Yorba Linda's Chris Pontius assisted all three goals by Davies, but he suffered a possible broken leg while diving in against Chivas center back David Junior Lopes for a loose ball in the 68th minute. The sound of the crack was explosive -- it could be heard in every corner of the stadium.
Lopes, who hurt his right knee on the play, not seriously, was red-carded although it appeared Pontius leapt at him with both feet.
“I don't know [what happened],” Lopes said afterward. “I went after the ball, and after I hit the ball, I don't know what happened.”
Fraser acknowledged that referee Ricardo Salazar's decision to send off Lopes was “a call I guess I would question,” but Davies called the incident “ugly, because I felt the guy really didn't need to slide, because he was first to the ball. And that's when it looked more malicious, because the intent was there to hurt Chris.”
Lopes denied trying to hurt Pontius.
“I swear to God,” he said through a translator. “My intent always is to play hard, but never to hurt anyone.”
A quick look at Chivas' defeat:
BEST PLAYER: Choose your poison: Davies, whose hat trick probably means he's MLS's Player of the Week. Or Pontius, who made Davies' job easy.
Let's give it to Davies, who would have scored four had his 1-on-1 try in the 39th minute (set up by Pontius, naturally) been a few inches to the right. His return to form, represented more in his work off the ball and combining with teammates than in the goals, could be key for D.C., which has looked like a playoff-bound team since acquiring Dwayne De Rosario in June.
“I saw Charlie Davies back today, which is a good sign for the club ...,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “Obviously, the goals are great, right? But to me, the way Charlie played tonight was almost more promising that the goals. Because of lot of his goals were -- let's face it -- people putting them on his foot. He did very well, and that's what he does. He's in the right spot. But the way he played tonight was more encouraging than the goals for me.”
BEST GOAL: Davies' first was the best -- and his easiest, requiring just a simple tap-in into an open net. Clyde Simms started it off in D.C. territory, knocking the ball away from Angel and off of Salazar. De Rosario picked up the ball, saw acres of space ahead and sprinted toward the Chivas box.
He fed the ball to Pontius just above the box, and the former Servite High School star looked like he was going to shoot. Instead, he bent the ball toward the far post, and Davies raced in alone to knock it home.
“As a striker, you want to score goals,” said Davies, who ended a two-month-plus scoring drought with his ninth, 10th and 11th goals this season. “That's your job. And obviously when I got the first one, you're feeling good, the confidence is coming back. I was very fortunate my teammates were able to get through on the wings, and I was able to make runs up the middle, and they gave me a lot of nice balls, tap-ins.
“And tonight is a night I could have had four or five. I'm actually not as happy as I should be, 'cause I feel I could have done more.”
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Let's look at two. First, the Goats are conceding too many early goals -- tonight's were the third and fourth of the first 15 minutes in the past four games. They were able to bounce back after Caleb Folan gave Colorado an 13th-minute lead on Aug. 20, but Alvaro Saborio's finish in the 11th minute two weeks ago -- from two dreadful defensive errors -- was enough for Real Salt Lake.
“It's not good enough,” Elliott said. “Seasons have ups and downs, but it should get to the situation where you're giving up early goals. It will happen, but it shouldn't with the frequency it has been in recent weeks.”
Also problematic is the backline situation. The Goats clearly missed injured backline leader Heath Pearce -- “It looks pretty significant now, doesn't it?” Fraser said -- and Lopes's dismissal costs them another option for next week's game in Chicago. Expect Andrew Boyens, who has played just once since late May, to partner Michael Umaña in the middle.
WORTH NOTING: Ben Zemanski, a midfielder who saw some time early in the season in central defense, had a tough night filling in at right back for Zarek Valentin and Michael Lahoud, who were on the bench as they returned from injury. Zemanski's poor clearance led to Davies' second goal. Lahoud, who missed almost all of two games with a sprained ankle, came on with about 20 minutes to go, and Zemanski moved into midfield. ... Salazar, scheduled fourth official, stepped in when scheduled referee Elias Bazakos was unable to travel. No reason was given for his absence. ... A moment of silence was held before the game to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “It's a little late when you're 2-0 down to decide you want to start playing, which we did a little once we started going in and out and then wide. But we're 2-0 down at that point,” said midfielder Simon Elliott, who wore the captain's armband. “We always talk about the right things. We always work on the right things in training, as far as I can tell. So to have a great opportunity like this and not execute again is very disappointing.”
NEXT: Saturday, Sept. 17, at Chicago, 1 p.m. (Telefutura-KFTR/Channel 46 and KDOC/Channel 56)
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Chivas USA 0, D.C. United 3
DC -- Charlie Davies (Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario) 11
DC -- Charlie Davies (Chris Pontius) 14
DC -- Charlie Davies (Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario) 66
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Ben Zemanski, Michael Umaña, David Junior Lopes, Ante Jazic; Blair Gavin (Michael Lahoud, 73), Simon Elliott, Nick La Brocca, Jorge Flores (Laurent Courtois, 62); Justin Braun (Alejandro Moreno, 57), Juan Pablo Angel. Unused subs: Andrew Boyens, Marcos Mondaini, Zach Thornton, Zarek Valentin.
D.C. United: Bill Hamid; Perry Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard; Andy Najar, Clyde Simms (Stephen King, 46), Dwayne De Rosario, Santino Quaranta (Austin Da Luz, 62); Chris Pontius (Marc Burch, 73) , Charlie Davies.
Yellow card: Angel 29. Red card: Lopes 69.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar. Att.: 12,245.