CHIVAS USA: Angel's smart start helps in draw

Chivas USA wasn't much better than all right when it visited MLS Cup champion Colorado on Saturday night, but that was enough to share in the points -- and not so much to diminish the effort of its celebrated newcomer.

Juan Pablo Angel, acquired from the Galaxy at week's start, added a needed dimension to the Goats' attack and scored on a superb first-half strike as Chivas twice rallied from deficits to score a 2-2 draw with the Rapids at DSG Park.

French midfielder Laurent Courtois, making just his third MLS appearance, also tallied for the Goats -- also a fine, fine goal -- an 86th-minute finish from Michael Lahoud's through ball after the right back capitalized on open space with an excellent run from deep on the flank.

For a team that was surrendering leads at nearly every opportunity earlier this season, rallying on the road felt good.

“It’s the amount of points that we wanted,” Lahoud told media following the game. “Considering the time of the year, it’s all about results. But we’ll take this draw. Coming back twice to grind out a result in a very tough place to play against a team that’s been on a hot streak, you have to take what you can get here.”

Caleb Folan and Jeff Larentowicz scored for the Rapids, headers off crosses from the right flank (Larentowicz's from a corner kick) against poor marking, and Macoumba Kandji nearly gave them a victory deep into stoppage, booting the ball after a corner kick, but Heath Pearce knocked the ball away as it sailed toward the net.

Angel was active and involved and connected with teammates even as Chivas struggled to get its game going in the first half. The Goats were hit and miss much of the night, despite holding 56 percent possession and winning the vast majority of duels. It will take a little time for Angel and his new teammates to acclimate to each other, but this was a good start -- and the Colombian striker's goal was sensational.

“It was a great feeling, a great play from a great pass and a great moment for me,” he told the league's website. “I know what I can do, and my challenge is to help this team in the last stretch of the season, and I’ll try to play well for them.”

Robin Fraser certainly was happy.

“He added quite a bit to us,” Chivas' coach told the MLS website. “It took us a while to get in sync, but as the team got better, we were able to find him with the ball quite a bit, and he was very instrumental in helping us build out of the back and get into a bit more of a rhythm.

“Certainly, his alertness on the goal and the quality of his finish was excellent. I thought, overall, it was a great debut for him.”

A quick look at Chivas' draw:

BEST PLAYER: We've got three.

Sanna Nyassi was a handful for Chivas' defenders from start to finish, not just his pace, but his free-kick delivery, too: The Rapids had seven corner kicks (to none for the Goats), scored off one of them and nearly netted from another with the game's penultimate touch.

LaBrocca made Chivas' attack go in the first half, and the feed on Angel's goal was beautiful. Courtois was superb after coming on with a half-hour to go, tying things together as the Goats surged forward, especially after Larentowicz gave Colorado a 69th-minute lead from Nyassi's corner.

Courtois finished sweetly from Lahoud's feed to claim a point, and he might have had two more, firing wide after cutting inside from the right just moments after coming on and challenging Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens after a nice run in the 77th minute.

BEST GOAL: Three of the four were nice -- only Larentowicz's header, helped by lax defending, falls short -- and we especially liked Lahoud's run to set up Courtois' late equalzier. But Angel's goal was special, for several reasons, not least of which is his ongoing slump. Scoring in his debut, and with so impressive a strike, bodes well for the coming games.

There were three significant moments to create the goal, by Lahoud, LaBrocca and, of course, Angel.

Lahoud started the pay with a quick reaction to cut off a Rapids pass, then played the ball to Blair Gavin, who gave it to Simon Elliott, who sent it forward to LaBrocca in the midfield circle.

LaBrocca collected and assessed where everybody was, took the ball a few steps toward the left sideline, then delivered with the outside of his right foot a perfect ball that sailed past six defenders and onto the sprinting Angel's path. With Marvell Wynne giving chase, Angel reached the ball as it rolled to the top of the semicircle, then laced it first-time sharply inside the right post.

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Zarek Valentin was hurt on Folan's goal and exited afterward with a bruised quad, limiting Fraser's substitute options down the stretch. That Lahoud was so good in his place lessened the blow.

More troubling is Valentin's penchant for getting schooled by veteran attackers, as on Folan's goal. The big Irishman manhandled the rookie right back from the University of Akron, pushing inside of him to simply nod home Pablo Mastroeni's cross.

Valentin is better going forward than he is defensively, which isn't rare among outside backs, especially the younger ones.

Galaxy standout Sean Franklin sure took his lumps in his first season, mostly playing in the middle of an iffy backline, and won Rookie of the Year against a weak field. He was on the flank in year two and has been an attacking force on the right, but his defensive game is still a work in progress -- and he's seeing more time in midfield these days.

Valentin, who just turned 20 two weeks ago, is getting quite an education this season, and that's part of the landscape. He's not a veteran right back, but the playing time will, logic follows, lead him toward his vast potential. Let's see where he stands in 2013.

WORTH NOTING: Chivas is 11th in the overall standings, just outside the playoff zone, and D.C. United would vault past with a win or draw in Sunday's game at Sporting Kansas City. ... Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni bemoaned his side's inability to hold onto two leads, telling media the draw “feels like a 4- or 5-nil loss.” ... The Goats are 1-6-2 when they concede the first goal. ... Colorado is 4-0-2 in its last six games. ... Chivas has just one game left on its five-game road stretch, Wednesday at Portland, before returning home next weekend against Real Salt Lake. Fraser, of course, was an assistant coach on RSL boss Jason Kreis' staff before taking charge of the Goats. His team is 1-1-2 on the trek, with a loss at FC Dallas, win over New England and draws with Seattle and Colorado. ... Galaxy midfielder David Beckham and head coach Bruce Arena applauded Angel's first goal for their archrival. “It didn't work out for him here, but I hope it works out for him at Chivas,” Beckham said after L.A.'s victory over San Jose at HDC.

FINAL JUDGMENT: “We’re looking forward and we’re moving forward still, but one thing that we can hold our heads up high about is the character we showed tonight,” Lahoud said. “At times, the game was going our way, we were fluid, and other times we were getting a lot of pressure on us, but we found a way to stay in it. We got a result, and that’s all that matters.”

NEXT: Wednesday at Portland, 8 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)


DSG Park (Commerce City, Colo.)

Colorado Rapids 2, Chivas USA 2

C -- Caleb Folan (Paolo Mastroeni) 13

CUSA -- Juan Pablo Angel (Nick LaBrocca) 36

C -- Jeff Larentowicz (Sanna Nyassi) 69

CUSA -- Laurent Courtois (Michael Lahoud) 86

Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor; Brian Mullan (Macoumba Kandji, 89), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz (Joseph Nane, 81), Wells Thompson (Omar Cummings, 58); Sanna Nyassi, Caleb Folan.

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin (Michael Lahoud, 16), Michael Umaña, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Nick LaBrocca, Simon Elliott, Blair Gavin (Laurent Courtois, 60), Jorge Flores (Marcos Mondaini, 75); Juan Pablo Angel, Alejandro Moreno. Unused subs: David Junior Lopes, Paulo Nagamura, Zach Thornton, Ben Zemanski.

Yellow card: Umaña 18.

Referee: Elias Bazakos. Att.: 16,852.