OXNARD -- Marvin Iraheta's first game experience with Chivas USA's first team was such a blast that even a knee injury, one that might be more serious than he believes, couldn't wipe the smile from his face.
The Goats' 19-year-old Salvadoran midfielder, signed out of the club's academy, offered a lot more good than ill in Friday morning's preseason opener, a 1-0 loss to the Ventura County Fusion in heavy winds at Oxnard College.
Iraheta was paired at the base of midfield with another Chivas debutant, 12-year MLS veteran Peter Vagenas, in a 4-2-3-1 alignment for the first of two 30-minute halves, and his incisive play and positive energy certainly made an impression.
“I like playing alongside him,” said Vagenas, a former Galaxy captain from UCLA whose signing has been completed but not announced. “I don't like driving him home all the time. I could do a few days here without Marvin, to be honest.”
He's kidding, of course. Iraheta, too, is from Pasadena, and Vagenas, who has 14 years on the youngster, is taking the kid under his wing.
“He's a good kid,” said Vagenas, who lives in Arcadia, close enough to carpool with Iraheta. “He seems to understand the game, he seems to want to get better, which is important, and he's all ears: He listens, which is good for a young player. ... Obviously, as he moves his career forward, he'll realize that the game is going to be a lot faster, and the things he did a year ago in three touches, he's got to do in one. I'm trying to encourage him not to get a false sense of security, especially in the middle of midfield, that he's just got to speed up his play.
“He's 19 years old. The sky's the limit, as they say, and as long as he continues to progress, he's going to be OK.”
Iraheta had a blast, calling it “a great experience to play next to someone the caliber of Peter” and saying he was “so happy I had the opportunity to play with the first team in my first game, and I feel like I'm important now, and I'm going to work hard and show [I can play].”
That's certainly the hope. Iraheta went down in the 20th minute, twisting his left knee in an unfortunate tackle. He reported he heard a pop -- never a good thing -- and tests will be required to assess how serious is the damage.
He wasn't the only casualty. Trialist Mario Ledesma, a former Chivas Academy player who has played in Guadalajara's system, hurt his right ankle midway through the second half.
“It's so obviously disappointing to have a couple of injuries here early,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, whose team wrapped up a six-day Ventura County stay. “Marvin was doing very well until he got his injury, and Mario was doing quite well, also.”
BLOWN AWAY: The game wasn't very good, thanks to the heavy winds. Connections weren't easy to make, few chances emerged, and the team with the wind at its back -- Chivas in the first half, the Fusion in the second -- dictated play.
“Any soccer player will tell you, wind is the absolute worst element to play in,” Vagenas said. “It wasn't so bad in the first half, but the second half, it was a huge, huge factor, obviously.”
The Fusion scored in the 49th minute, when a free kick pushed through Chivas' wall for former Pasadena City College standout Hagop Chirishian to finish. Ventura County had a strong side that featured several pros, including Serbia-based winger Danny Barrera, a former Fusion/UC Santa Barbara star home on winter break.
GOOD SHOWINGS: Who impressed? Center backs John Alexander Valencia, the Colombian newcomer, and trialist Rauwshan McKenzie, who teamed in the first half. And Michael Lahoud, on the right flank in the first half, who nearly scored with a cross that got caught in the wind and sailed toward the upper-left post.
“We had certain objectives we wanted to meet today,” Fraser said. “A lot of it was about our transition and being able to win the ball back as soon as we lost it. I certainly thought the first group did a real good job of that -- [the Fusion] didn't put together any passes at all, and for us, it was an exercise in game-management as well. I was happy with a lot of what the first group did, for sure.”
That first group included Juan Pablo Angel up top, Nick LaBrocca behind him, newcomer Ryan Smith on the left flank, and first-choice outside backs Ante Jazic and newcomer James Riley, plus new goalkeeper Tim Melia.
The second group was much younger and far more inexperienced, with just one returning player -- forward Chris Cortez -- and assistant coach Greg Vanney manning a spot in central midfield. They struggled against the breeze.
“It was always going to be difficult for them, given the conditions,” Fraser said. “Certainly, a little disappointing with some of our choices with the ball. We see once again turnovers in bad spots lead to dangerous opportunities against you.”
WORTH NOTING: Ecuadoran midfielder Oswaldo Minda arrived in camp around the 12th minute, greeting Fraser on the sideline, pulling on a shirt and training with teammates behind the south goal. ... Midfielder Ben Zemanski missed the Oxnard portion of camp after sustaining a concussion and must pass the league protocol before he can return to training. ... Blair Gavin, who missed most of the first two weeks while on a personal leave of absence, has checked in and will train with teammates Monday. ... The Fusion will play the Colorado Rapids at Oxnard College a week from Sunday. No kickoff time has been set. ... Chivas' next game is next Friday against FC Hasental, a fourth-tier club from Thousand Oaks, at Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA 0, Ventura County Fusion 1
VC -- Hagop Chirishian 49
Chivas USA: Tim Melia (Kevin Guppy, 31); James Riley (R.J. Allen, 31), John Alexander Valencia (Daniel Steres, 31), Rauwshan McKenzie (Greg Vanney, 31), Ante Jazic (Mario Ledesma, 31; Eric Gonzalez, 47); Marvin Iraheta (Ciaran O'Brien, 24), Peter Vagenas (Marco Delgago, 31); Michael Lahoud (Kevin Venegas, 31), Nick LaBrocca (Ben Spencer, 31), Ryan Smith (Kennedy Chongo, 31); Juan Pablo Angel (Chris Cortez, 31).
Ventura County Fusion: Sam Hayden (Markus Dickerson, 50); Emigdio Ramirez, Omar Elmasri, Mickey Daly, Dylan Riley; Ivan Mikovic, Manny Guzman (Milton Blanco, 50), Danny Barrera; Jack Avesyan (David Walker, 31), Jaime Chavez (Rosario Bras, 31), Hagop Chirishian (Gor Kirakosyan, 50).
Yellow cards: Elmasri 53, Mikovic 61+.
Referee: Luis Gutierrez. Att.: c. 65.
CHIVAS USA PRESEASON
Jan. 27 vs. Ventura County Fusion (PDL), 60 mins. (L, 0-1)
Feb. 3 vs. FC Hasental (NPSL) at Home Depot Center
Feb. 7 vs. Colorado Rapids at site TBA
Feb. 11 vs. Chicago Fire at site TBA
Feb. 16 vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center
Feb. 22 vs. Club Tijuana (Mexico) at University of San Diego
Feb. 27 vs. AIK (Sweden) at Portland, Ore.
March 1 at Portland Timbers
March 4 vs. San Jose Earthquakes at Portland, Ore.