MLS wraps preps in L.A., Oxnard

The Chicago Fire split a pair of games Saturday morning at Oxnard College, bringing to an end a series of 20 preseason matches involving Major League Soccer clubs in Carson and Oxnard.

Three more games were played in San Luis Obispo, and Chivas USA has a ticketed game Wednesday night in San Diego against Mexico's Club Tijuana.

Eight clubs, including Chivas and the Galaxy, trained this month at Home Depot Center or Oxnard College, several of them at both sites.

The San Jose Earthquakes beat the Fire, 2-0, in Oxnard's main stadium Saturday, with Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart and Brad Ring scoring first-half goals. The Fire rallied from a first-half deficit to beat the Ventura County Fusion, 2-1, on an adjacent field. Woodland Hills' Orr Barouch converted a penalty kick and set up Pari Pantazopoulos' strike to lift Chicago.

Thousand Oaks' Danny Barrera, who was in camp for the Fire, scored on a free kick, his second such goal in as many games. Barrera, a former UC Santa Barbara standout who is contracted to a Serbian club, scored a superb goal in the Fusion's loss Friday to the Montreal Impact at Home Depot Center.

BEST OF THE CAMPS: All in all, the soccer on display wasn't great. Everyone's in preseason form, which means lagging fitness, too many mistakes and too many connections still being made. Some matches were interesting only because you could hear everything said on the field, including a fair share of expletives. (Yes, you can swear in soccer, so long as you don't direct it at the ref.)

All that said, here were some of the good things we saw during the games in L.A. and Ventura counties:

BEST TEAM: The Portland Timbers clicked better than everyone else, with Cameroonian trialist Franck Songo'o leading one of the few attacks that appeared ready for the season to start. Portland went 3-0-1, scored four on the Galaxy and two against Houston and Chicago.

BEST PLAYER: It might be Songo'o. Or his teammate James Marcelin, a monster in midfield. We also liked what Sanna Nyassi brings to Montreal's attack, Michael Lahoud's and Ryan Smith's play on Chivas USA's flanks, and the effort Adam Cristman brings up front for the Galaxy. L.A. newcomer Marcelo Sarvas' vision and touch also impresses, and Oswaldo Minda is clearly going to be a solid midfield anchor for Chivas. If we have to pick one ... it's Songo'o.

BEST GOAL: There were four we really liked, by Marcelin (vs. Houston), Barrera (vs. Montreal), Galaxy forward Jack McBean (vs. L.A. Blues) and Montreal defender Zarek Valentin (vs. Galaxy). Barrera's and McBean's were the most perfect -- rockets to the upper-left corner, Barrera's from a free kick and McBean's while one-on-one with a defender right of the spot at the top of the box. Marceln's, too, was a screamer, off the bottom of the crossbar.

Valentin's is our choice because it was the most unexpected and, if you know the former Chivas USA right back, joyous of them all: a right-footed blast from distance that curled outward and into the upper right-side netting.

His best goal? “Ever,” he says. “Honestly, it's the first goal I've scored in a competitive game in I can't remember how long, At least five years,” said the ebullient Valentin, whom Montreal plucked from Chivas' roster during November's expansion draft. “It was a hit of a lifetime, in all honesty. I was telling my brother [former Galaxy defender Julian Valentin] how hopefully peple don't expect me to do that on a regular basis.

“It was, I'd say, the most calculated mishit I've ever had in my life.”

BEST GAME: The Galaxy's 3-2 closed-door win over Chivas was pretty good, in that both teams had stretches of very fine play -- just not at the same time. Even better was San Jose's 2-2 Valentine's Day draw with Houston in Oxnard, with the Quakes rallying twice from deficits and second-year midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong netting the decisive goal in the 78th minute.

BEST STORY: The Brian Ching saga dominated the proceedings. He played for Montreal against his former Houston teammates, then was off to Houston to negotiate a new deal, at barely more than half the value of the old one. Then he was traded back to Houston, where he can open the new stadium, complete a fine playing career and move seamlessly into the Dynamo's front office.



Jan. 27

Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 1 (Chirishian 49), Chivas USA 0, 60 mins.

Feb. 3

Galaxy 7 (Sarvas pen. 12, Dunivant 29, Cristman 36, 42, Cardozo 42, McBean 63, Nakazawa pen. 85), L.A. Blues (USL Pro) 2 (Cho 30, Fondy 68)

Chivas USA 5 (Lahoud 22, Angel pen. 24, Smith 40, Cortez 50, Romero 89), Hasental FC (NPSL) 0

Feb. 5

Colorado Rapids 0, Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 0

Feb. 7

Galaxy 1 (Keat 80), Portland Timbers 4 (Dike 8, Perlaza 9, Marcelin 67, Danso pen. 85)

Chivas USA 0, Colorado Rapids (Amarikwa 85)

Feb. 8

Houston Dynamo 2 (Clark 65, Weaver 83), Montreal Impact 0

Feb. 10

Galaxy 0, Houston Dynamo 1 (Sturgis 68)

Portland Timbers 0, Montreal Impact 0

Montreal Impact 0, L.A. Blues (USL Pro) 0, 45 mins.

San Jose Earthquakes 2 (Stephenson 33, Wondolowski 69), Colorado Rapids 1 (Castrillon 13)

Feb. 11

Chivas USA 0, Chicago Fire 1 (Paladini 49)

Chicago Fire 0, Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 0, 50 mins.

Colorado Rapids 1 (Cascio NA), San Jose Earthquakes 0, 35 mins.

Colorado Rapids 1 (Akpan pen. NA), Cal Poly (NCAA D1) 0, 35 mins.

Feb. 12

Portland Timbers 2 (Jewsbury 63, Marcelon 86), Houston Dynamo 0

Feb. 14

Galaxy 0, Montreal Impact 3 (Nyassi 37, Valentin 52, James 92+)

Chivas USA 1 (Townsend 2), Montreal Impact 0, 60 mins.

Houston Dynamo 2 (Kandji 5, Bruin 51), San Jose Earthquakes 2 (Wondolowski 30, Ampaipitakwong 78)

Feb. 15

Portland Timbers 2 (Alexander 64, Perlaza 113), Chicago Fire 0, 120 mins.

Feb. 16

Galaxy 3 (Noonan 21, Cristman 31, Keat 40), Chivas USA 2 (Lahoud 53, Romero 77)

Feb. 18

San Jose Earthquakes 2 (Lenhart 3, Ring 38), Chicago Fire 0

Chicago Fire 2 (Barouch pen. 59, Pantazopoulos 68), Ventura County Fusion 0

Feb. 22

Chivas USA vs. Club Tijuana (Mexico) at Torero Stadium, University of San Diego (San Diego), 8 p.m.