CHIVAS USA: Another step back in draw

CARSON -- The glow that surrounded Chivas USA a month ago -- after that win at San Jose, the romp over New England and the heroic effort in the loss at Real Salt Lake -- is gone now, and Robin Fraser admits he's seeing some of the same troubles that dogged the Goats in the first weeks of the season.

A passive performance in the attacking third, at least until Vancouver's monster forward, Eric Hassli, was red-carded with 25 minutes or so to go, cost Chivas another opportunity to pick up three points Wednesday night.

“How disappointing is it?” Fraser said after the 1-1 draw at Home Depot Center. “Very. We're all about improving, and the goal is to improve every week … and this is an opportunity to come out and continue what has been, for the most part, pretty good soccer over the last number of games. …

“We missed an opportunity tonight, for sure. I mean, being a man up for [25-plus] minutes at home is certainly a very, very favorable situation, and we are definitely disappointed that we didn't do as well as we would have liked to.”

The Goats (3-4-5), with five starters suspended or away on international duty, surrendered another lead just four days after Columbus rallied three times for a 3-3 draw and struggled, despite a significant advantage in possession, to find paths through a tight and capable defense marshaled by U.S. national team veteran Jay DeMerit.

Nick LaBrocca gave Chivas a lead just 21 seconds into the second half, drilling the ball inside the left post after a 30-yard run from midfield, but the advantage was gone within two minutes, when Camilo latched onto a rebound and sent it into the upper-90.

They were far too passive in the early going -- “We'd done a tremendous job of getting away from that in the last, I don't know, eight games maybe, so tonight really felt like one of the earlier games,” Fraser said -- and not clinical enough at the end, and that's not going to be good enough if Chivas wants to contend for a playoff berth.

“I think we get a little complacent at times,” said center back Heath Pearce, who wore the captain's armband with forward Alejandro Moreno away with Venezuela's national team. “We find ourselves swimming against the current for 90 minutes because we stop moving, we stop being creative, we stop being in the right position, we stop defensively organizing. … We just kind of get complacent, and that's something we have to get away from.”

The game turned on Hassli's 66th-minute dismissal, the French striker's third red card this season, for a late tackle on Ben Zemanski. The Goats had crafted only two reasonable scoring opportunities to that point, to nine by the Whitecaps (1-5-7), but spent the final half-hour -- spurred by Paulo Nagamura's and Michael Lahoud's returns from injury -- on top of the Vancouver goal.

Nagamura and Lahoud, who came on in the 60th minute, were definite bright spots for Chivas.

Nagamura, a Brazilian midfielder, had played just 31 minutes this season, reinjuring a sore calf in the 0-0 draw April 16 at Vancouver. Lahoud suffered a concussion in that game and also had an aborted return, in the win 2½ weeks ago over New York.

In addition, defender Seth Owusu and forward Tristan Bowen, both coming off injuries that have kept them out two months, were on the 18-man game roster.

A quick look at Chivas' draw:

BEST PLAYER: The simple answer is Hassli, who was at the heart of nearly everything that went right for Vancouver's attack, hit the crossbar in the 39th minute, helped set up Camilo's strike with a nifty backheel to Chiumiento and was sent off with a red card that was far too harsh. His departure changed the game entirely -- much more so than a red card usually does.

LaBrocca was superb for the Goats, and not just the goal, a stirring shot that rewarded an excellent run through a seam up the middle. He might have had a couple more and would have had an 84th-minute winner had Jay DeMerit not been in position to boot away his blast after goalkeeper Joe Cannon came off his line to knock away a Justin Braun shot.

Best of all might have been Nagamura, who elevated Chivas' game by providing a midfield foundation beyond Zemanski's means and created opportunities with some outstanding passing.

“[Nagamura] sprays the ball great, hits a great ball,” LaBrocca said. "He's very accurate with his passing, and he puts good pace on his passing, and he's composed. He's very composed. There's never a sense of panic.”

BEST GOAL: Both were quality. LaBrocca's, a 26-yard blast inside the left post, followed a 30-yard run after taking a feed from Mayen. “Space opened up, so I just dribbled into it,” he said. “It's just kind of how it happens. … You're always kind of checking your shoulders [as you spring through space], to see if anybody is coming. Anybody would think it's nice when that space just opens up.”

Camilo's, just moments later, was prettier, and the buildup was nice, too, especially the backheel from Hassli that fed Chiumiento's shot. Pearce blocked it, and the rebound fell to Camilo, who bent it first time into the upper-right corner.

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: There wasn't enough creativity or energy at work for the Goats, and the absence of so many players who have contributed in recent weeks surely played a role in that. So did Vancouver's defensive play in its first game under interim coach Tom Soehn, the club's director of soccer, who took charge of the team when head coach Teitur Thordarson was fired Monday.

“Give Vancouver credit,” Fraser said. “They were very organized defensively and not easy to penetrate, but just on the whole, we weren't aggressive enough in terms of looking to get behind them, and we played basically the whole 45 minutes [in the first half] in front of them. … Obviously, to play 20 minutes a man up, maybe more, and to not be able to find the net was disappointing.”

WORTH NOTING: Soehn made four changes to the lineup -- Cannon, the former Galaxy goalkeeper, made just his second start of the year -- and swapped Chiumiento and Camilo, partnering Chiumiento with Hassli and throwing Camilo on the flank. … Mayen, defender Michael Umaña and forward Chris Cortez made their first starts for the Goats this season. … The Whitecaps, one of just two MLS teams with one victory. are winless in a dozen games since winning their MLS debut. … Midfielder Simon Elliott and defender Andy Boyens played 71 minutes in New Zealand's 3-0 loss to Mexico in Denver. Whitecaps defender Michael Boxall played the first half. … Moreno was a second-half substitute for Venezuela in a 2-0 win over Guatemala.

FINAL JUDGMENT: “I think it's a little bit too convenient that everyone starts wanting the ball when we're up a man ...,” Pearce said. “No one's just going to give it to us, and I think that too often we don't go out there and earn the space to play in. Obviously, when you go up a man, it's easy to play. When we go up a couple of goals [a month ago] against New England, it's easy to play. Everybody wants the ball.

“I don't know. I'm not content with that, and I think a lot of guys aren't content with that, and I think that's something we need to look at as well. We need to be more creative, we need to be more confident, we need to all want the ball all the time. Especially with the [possession] style that we play. We need the majority of players on the field having good days each day if we're going to results this year.”

NEXT: Saturday vs. Portland Timbers at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket)


Home Depot Center (Carson)

Chivas USA 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 1

C -- Nick LaBrocca 46

V -- Camilo 48

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Michael Umaña, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Gerson Mayen (Paulo Nagamura, 60), Ben Zemanski, Nick LaBrocca, Francisco Mendoza (Michael Lahoud, 60); Justin Braun, Chris Cortez (Victor Estupiñan, 76). Unused subs: Tristan Bowen, Seth Owusu, Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo.

Vancouver Whitecaps: Joe Cannon; Bilal Duckett, Mouloud Akloul, Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat; Shea Salinas (Jeb Brovsky, 83), Gershon Koffie, Alexandre Morfaw, Camilo; Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento (Russell Teibert, 68).

Yellow cards: Estupiñan 79, Cannon 86. Red card: Hassli 66.

Referee: Ricardo Salazar. Att.: 11,753.