CARSON -- Chivas USA's second preseason match was a little bit like the first, in that there were some very fine things to be seen across midfield. That's good news -- it's the area of the field the Goats amassed so much depth over the offseason.
Newcomer Ryan Smith and fourth-year veteran Michael Lahoud looked very sharp on the wings and Peter Vagenas paired well in the middle with debutant Oswaldo Minda as Chivas romped to a 5-0 triumph Friday at Home Depot Center over FC Hasental, a Thousand Oaks club that plays in the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.
Lahoud and Smith scored first-half goals, Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick, Chris Cortez added a second-half goal, and trialist Cesar Romero -- a very interesting prospect -- netted at the finish to push the Goats to 1-1-0, whatever that's worth.
“It’s one of those things where we’re looking at specific things: how we move as a unit, our thoughts attacking-wise, and it’s great to see for a group of guys that is basically playing together for the first time, that they had a number of good ideas,” said head coach Robin Fraser, who started used a 4-2-3-1 alignment in the first half, just as he did in last week's wind-blown hour exercise against the Ventura County Fusion. “Cohesion was decent, and it’ll get better, but at the end of it, as we’re trying to get results going forward, it’s important.”
Smith, an Englishman whose rights were acquired from Sporting Kansas City the day after the MLS Cup final, is a speedy attacking presence on the left flank. Lahoud is prospering in his best position after spending most of last season at right back.
“Both players, they're taking steps forward and working on fitness, but one of the keys for us is going to be how dangerous our wide players are,” Fraser said. “Both guys showed the ability to be dangerous today, and it's good that we keep moving in that direction where things seem to be getting better.”
Minda slid in next to Vagenas at the base of the five-man midfield and showed he can be commanding, even if he's not match-fit yet.
“He's very solid, he's got a lot of good ideas before he gets the ball, his first touch is clean,” Fraser said. “He covers ground, he covers ground, he covers ground. He’s a guy who is very experienced and very professional player. He brings a lot to us.”
So might Romero, a former U.S. under-18 national-teamer from Chula Vista who has played in Mexico's (with Murcielagos FC) and Germany's (with TSG Thannhausen) lower divisions and is tearing up the Premier Arena Soccer League (local entrants: Anaheim Bolts) -- with 33 goals in seven games, including two nine-goal games, for the Tijuana Revolucion.
Romero, 22, joined camp Wednesday and quickly showed off his laser shot. Everyone on Field 4 witnessed it at the end.
“He’s interesting,” said Fraser. “He’s a dynamic forward, he looks to make a lot of runs going forward, he has a quick release of his shot, and he’s very much an attack minded player. He’s certainly been intriguing to this point.”
GAME PLAN: Chivas again went with a first-choice lineup in the first half and a lesser-experienced group in a 4-4-2 after halftime. The second group included just three returning players (Cortez, Laurent Courtois and Jorge Villafaña). Four draft picks, including UCLA goalkeeper Brian Rowe), three trialists (Romero, Rauwshan McKenzie and Biola product Kennedy Chongo), and two academy players (Marco Delgado and Eric Gonzalez) saw time.
McKenzie could be Chivas' next signing -- the former Real Salt Lake center back has impressed in camp, and Fraser likes him. Courtois missed a penalty kick in the 48th minute, hitting the right post.
WORTH NOTING: Marvin Iraheta's injury has been confirmed as a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, and he is expected to undergo surgery next week. Normal recovery time is six to nine months. ... Chivas USA Academy star Esteban “Stevie” Rodriguez, a U.S. under-17 national-teamer from Palmdale, signed this week with Club Tijuana. He was among the academy players in camp when the Goats started preparations nearly three weeks ago. ... There is one minor snag remaining in Angel's contract with the Goats. ...
Hasental's lineup included defender Taylor Canel, who was with the Galaxy in 2007; midfielder Reggie Edu, the younger brother of U.S. national teamer Maurice Edu; and Chivas USA Academy product Nicholas Ledesma. ... Ecuadoran midfielder Miller Bolaños and Brazilian defender David Junior Lopes, who just arrived in camp, trained on an adjacent field with Blair Gavin, who came in last weekend, and Mario Ledesma, who is recovering from an ankle knock. The goalkeepers not in the game also worked out on their own. ... Chivas plans to unveil their new jersey on a Valentine's Day flight to Guadalajara. Stay tuned.
Home Depot Center Field 4 (Carson)
Chivas USA 5, FC Hasental 0
C -- Michael Lahoud (James Riley) 22
C -- Juan Pablo Angel pen. 24
C -- Ryan Smith 40
C -- Chris Cortez 50
C -- Cesar Romero 89
Chivas USA: Tim Melia (Brian Rowe, 46); James Riley (R.J. Allen, 46), John Alexander Valencia (Fabian Kling, 46), Heath Pearce (Rauwshan McKenzie, 46; Daniel Steres, 65), Ante Jazic (Jorge Villafaña, 46); Oswaldo Minda (Cesar Romero, 46), Peter Vagenas (Marco Delgado, 46); Michael Lahoud (Larent Courtois, 46), Alejandro Moreno (Chris Cortez, 75), Ryan Smith (Kennedy Chongo, 46); Juan Pablo Angel (Chris Cortez, 46; Eric Gonzalez, 69).
FC Hasental (starters): Michael Abalos; Robert Pate, Taylor Canel, Edgar Ramirez, Lucian Leu; Nicholas Ledesma, Armando Gaitan, Jordan Palmer, Reggie Edu; Jonathan Zerah, Milan Radovic.
Yellow card: Smith 10.
Referee: Alex Mariscal. Att.: c. 80.
CHIVAS USA PRESEASON
Jan. 27 vs. Ventura County Fusion (PDL), 60 mins.: L, 0-1
Feb. 3 vs. FC Hasental (NPSL): W, 5-0 (Lahoud 22, Angel pen. 24, Smith 40, Cortez 50, Romero 89)
Feb. 7 vs. Colorado Rapids at Home Depot Center
Feb. 11 vs. Chicago Fire at Oxnard College
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.