OXNARD -- Chivas USA has great hopes for rookie forward Casey Townsend, a forceful finisher who will be expected, at the very least, to provide cover for Juan Pablo Angel this year.
Townsend, an All-American after scoring 17 goals last fall at the University of Maryland, on Saturday finally got his first game action of preseason, playing the final half-hour of a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire at Oxnard College.
Townsend, who has been hampered almost from the start of camp by a hamstring strain and missed the Goats' first three preseason encounters, gave a spirited performance, then said he was happy, to a point.
“It felt good to finally be out there in a game,” he said. “It was obviously a little bit of a frustrating performance overall in the second half by our team, but I felt that being back out there was fun to go out there and kick it around for a while.”
Chivas' starting group, which included Laurent Courtois on one flank and trialist Cesar Rivera at forward, played very well and was unfortunate not to find the net. Chicago was better in the second half and got the only goal it needed from former Cal State Northridge midfielder Daniel Paladini four minutes into the second half.
Townsend never came close to scoring, but he was energetic and worked hard to connect with his fellow attackers, but just getting onto the field was an encouraging first step.
Townsend, who scored 43 goals in four seasons at Maryland, was the No. 5 overall pick in last month's MLS SuperDraft, but he was hurt at the end of his first week in camp -- overextending while playing in a pick-up game at the end of a training session -- and he's mostly been rehabbing the injury since.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you get injured,” he said. “Luckily, it was in the preseason, and I’m able to get over that hurdle so far. It’s healed well, and it’s progressed well.”
Head coach Robin Fraser said Townsend probably could have played sooner if required, but “we didn’t want to rush him.”
What Townsend has shown, when he's had the chance, has impressed teammates. He's a fearless attacker, willing to throw his head or body into any space to get on the end of crosses.
“He’s a guy that in many ways is very similar to what I was back at his age,” said Alejandro Moreno, Chivas' primary captain last year. “I see a lot of physical presence and the fact that he’s able to stay busy, make good runs and stay busy in the box.”
Townsend said the speed of play in Saturday's game caught his attention -- it's the first thing young players recognize about the pro game -- and that it's just one more step along his learning curve.
“You learn a lot every day [working with these players], the way that they go about their business,” he said. “Whether it’s getting into the training room before practice or getting your body ready or staying after practice to make their game better. Everything that they do on on the field, you can learn from every day.”
MIDFIELD VARIATIONS: Fraser played a variation of the 4-2-3-1 he employed in the first three preseason matches. Officially, it was a 4-3-3, but the only difference was that the triangle in central midfield was flipped, with Oswaldo Minda anchoring behind Moreno and Nick LaBrocca. All three were excellent.
“If you look at the first half, we did a good job of pinning them in their end, and we were able to get behind them and make ourselves dangerous,” Fraser said. “I think that the final pass wasn’t the quality that it needs to be, but it is still early, and it has not been an emphasis yet, but it was very encouraging to see us get to the point where we’re not just possessing, but getting into dangerous spots and getting dangerous opportunities out of it.”
Courtois whiffed on one chance, and Michael Lahoud's opportunity at the right post was quashed by a sliding Cory Gibbs. Ryan Smith, who came on at halftime, had the best second-half opportunity, chipping at an open net after Fire goalkeeper Jay Nolly came well off his line to clear the ball after a Moreno steal. Kwame Watson-Siriboe raced back to clear the ball as it reached the goal line.
Jorge Villafaña cleared a ball off the line for Chivas near the end, after a corner kick caromed off a Goats defender, hit Watson-Siriboe and ricocheted toward the net.
WORTH NOTING: Chicago and the Ventura County Fusion played to a 0-0 draw over 50 minutes following the game. Former Fusion (and UC Santa Barbara) midfielder Danny Barrera played for the Fire, which is looking at him before he's slated to return to his club in Serbia in another week or so. ... Defender Daniel Steres, a supplemental draft choice from San Diego State released from Chivas' camp Wednesday, played for the Fusion. ... Also released from camp: goalkeepers Kevin Guppy (former Cal State Northridge star from Chino Hills who has been an MLS pool goalkeeper; he's going on trial with another, unidentified MLS club) and Carl Woszczynski (trialist), winger Kennedy Chongo (trialist from Biola University) and midfielder Kevin Venegas (supplemental draft choice from Cal State Fullerton and Los Alamitos). ... Angel is in Colombia, along with other dignitaries, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a newspaper. He's due back for Tuesday's trip to Guadalajara and the Goats' jersey unveiling. ... Chivas will face Montreal on Tuesday afternoon, after the Impact's game against the Galaxy. It's supposed to be a 45-minute clash, but Montreal coach Jesse Marsch said Chivas has asked to play a full 90 and that he iss surveying his squad to see if he can play two full matches. ... Colorado won two 35-minute scrimmages Saturday morning in San Luis Obispo, beating San Jose, 1-0, on rookie Tony Cascio's goal, then edging Cal Poly, 1-0, as Andre Akpan converted a penalty kick.
Chicago Fire 1, Chivas USA 0
Chi -- Daniel Paladini 49
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson (Jay Nolly, 46); Dan Gargan (Tony Walls, 46), Jalil Anibaba (Kwame Watson-Siriboe, 46), Cory Gibbs (Austin Berry, 46), Ivan Guerrero (Hunter Jumper, 46); Marco Pappa (Victor Pineda, 46), Pavel Pardo (Daniel Paladini, 46), Patrick Nyarko (Michael Videira, 46); Sebastian Grazzini (Kheli Dube, 46), Federico Puppo (Corben Bone, 46), Dominic Oduro (Orr Barouch, 46).
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy (Tim Melia, 46); James Riley (R.J. Allen, 60), John Alexander Valencia (Rauwshan McKenzie, 60), Heath Pearce (David Junior Lopes, 60), Ante Jazic (Jorge Villafaña, 46); Nick LaBrocca (Peter Vagenas, 46), Oswaldo Minda (Blair Gavin, 60), Alejandro Moreno (Marco Delgado, 60); Michael Lahoud (Chris Cortez, 60), Cesar Romero (Casey Townsend, 60); Laurent Courtois (Ryan Smith, 46).
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Kevin Stott. Att.: c. 200.
Chicago Fire 0, Ventura County Fusion 0 (50 mins.)
Chicago Fire: Paolo Tornaghi (Alex Kahn, 26); Jed Zayner (Tony Walls, 26), Rodrigo Iñigo, Austin Berry (Kwame Watson-Siriboe, 26), Pari Pantazopolus; Victor Pineda, Daniel Paladini (Michael Videira, 26), Danny Barrera, Corben Bone (Hunter Jumper, 46); Lucky Mkosana, Kellen Gulley.
Ventura County Fusion: Sam Hayden (Kevin Klasila, 26); Sergio Castillo, Mickey Daly, Daniel Steres, Dylan Riley; Hagop Chirishian, Manny Guzman, Ivan Mirkovic (Emigdio Ramirez, 46), Jack Avesyan; Rosario Bras (Miles, Byass, 26), Martin Galvan (Gor Kirakosyan, 26).
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Magic Berenji. Att.: c. 75.
CHIVAS USA PRESEASON
Record: 1-3-0; vs, MLS: 0-2-0
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, Smitth 40, Cortez 50, Romero 89)
Feb. 7 vs. Colorado Rapids: L, 0-1
Feb. 11 vs. Chicago Fire: L, 0-1
Feb. 14 vs. Montreal Impact at Home Depot Center
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.