CHIVAS USA: Awful start, decent finish

CARSON -- Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser was not pleased with his side's effort in the first half Tuesday morning against the Galaxy. The Goats, fielding close to a first-choice lineup against a group of second- and third-teamers, played listless, mistake-filled soccer and struggled to figure out their archrival's direct approach.

It led to a three-goal deficit by halftime, and only a second-half rally, after Fraser made wholesale changes, salvaged some positives in a 3-2 closed-door loss on L.A.'s training field at Home Depot Center.

“First half really poor. Really poor,” Fraser reported afterward. “We had too many turnovers and not enough ideas to deal with the way that they were playing. I was disappointing to come out and start that way. I think the second half, we came out with as little more resolve against how we wanted to play against them, and as a result we were able to turn the game a bit in our favor and create some good opportunities.

“This is part of the learning process. You're going to see different sorts of teams. And I think the way the Galaxy play, this is the first time we've seen a team that plays [so directly], and we just have to learn from it.”

Miscues from trusted hands, including backline leader Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, contributed to the first-half fallout, with the Galaxy scoring on easy finishes from Pat Noonan (after a takeaway), Adam Cristman (after a backpass disaster) and Dan Keat (after rookie Rafael Garcia sliced through the defense).

“Errors in the back are never good,” Fraser said. “We had guys make mistakes today who are good players and know the consequences of making mistakes like that in big games. So certainly we feel again like this is something we have to learn from. We have to recognize opportunities [to score], we have to be cleaner. You can't turn the ball over 35 yards from your goal. You just can't.

“I feel like we're taking steps forward, but it's always disappointing whenever you shoot yourself in the foot.”

Michael Lahoud, who arguably has been Chivas' best player through six preseason matches, said the first half “wasn't good enough.”

“We want to be a team of ambition,” he said. “We want to be a team that competes, especially when we play against these guys -- they're neighbors, they're our rivals, and it's never an easy game. But that doesn't excuse the way we came out. We came out flat and passes weren't connected.”

Fraser made two changes at halftime and six more as the second half proceeded, building momentum as the attitude and effort improved. Lahoud, who played the full 90, was outstanding, and Chivas was better defensively with Peter Vagenas and Blair Gavin cleaning things up in central midfield and more dynamic thanks to Ryan Smith and Jorge Villafaña combining on the left flank, and trialist Cesar Romero's dangerous darts behind L.A.'s defense.

Lahoud, with a simple touch, pulled Chivas one back just eight minutes into the second half. Romero, the indoor phenom who is in contract discussions with the Goats, scored with a fine first-time shot in the 77th.

“The thing I like about Cesar is in most every game he's played for us, he's had a scoring opportunity,” Fraser said. “He seems to have a good nose for the goal. He has good feet. He still has a ways to go in terms of his full understanding of the position [up front], but he's promising.”

Fraser said Vagenas and Gavin “came in with a lot of ideas as to how to solve some problems on the field” and “did a really good job of getting us out of the back and in midfield and into the attack.” Lahoud noted that “their ability to consistently draw guys out from spaces, free up a lot more gaps to move into, and play forward and take pressure off our center backs and goalkeepers” was pivotal.

It fueled a comeback that fell short but made a statement.

“That definitely shows a sign of something in the making, but our objective every game [is winning],” Lahoud said. “It's getting closer to when moral victories and moral lessons don't count for anything, excuse my French, and we want to hold ourselves to a high standard. That's what it takes to get it done.

“We're definitely onto something. The work's not done yet.”

WORTH NOTING: Among those on hand Tuesday were Galaxy legend Cobi Jones, former Chivas star Ante Razov, U.S. under-23 national team coach Caleb Porter and, for the last part of the match, Montreal's coaching staff. ... Defenders R.J. Allen and Fabian Kling, both supplemental draft picks, were dropped from Chivas' camp, leaving Chivas with 30 players -- plus Academy players, one of them (Marco Delgado) likely to get a Home Grown Player slot -- and expectations they'll carry fewer, perhaps 27 or 28. Van Nuys' Tristan Bowen, on loan to Roeselare in Belgium's second division, will count against the 30-player cap. ... Fraser said he was keeping an eye out for players released from other clubs' camps, so the battle for jobs could become more intense. ... Villafaña along was called up for the U-23s Olympic qualifying prep Feb. 29 against Mexico in Frisco, Texas. Also on Porter's roster are Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens and his fellow UCLA product Amoki Okugo, a Philadelphia midfielder.


Home Depot Center University Field 1 (Carson)

Galaxy 3, Chivas USA 2

LA -- Pat Noonan (Adam Cristman) 21

LA -- Adam Cristman 31

LA -- Dan Keat (Rafael Garcia) 40

C -- Michael Lahoud 53

C -- Cesar Romero (Jorge Villafaña) 77

Galaxy: Bill Gaudette (Nick Noble, 39); Justin Davies, Andrew Boyens (Tommy Meyer, 77), Bryan Gaul, J.T. Murray (Todd Dunivant, 84); Hector Jimenez (Michael Stephens, 68), Dan Keat, Rafael Garcia, Pat Noonan; Jack McBean (Kyle Nakazawa, 70), Adam Cristman.

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy (Tim Melia, 65); James Riley, John Alexander Valencia (David Junior Lopes, 72), Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic (Jorge Villafaña, 58); Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin, 72), Alejandro Moreno (Miller Bolaños, 46); Michael Lahoud, Nick LaBrocca (Peter Vagenas, 72), Laurent Courtois (Ryan Smith, 58); Juan Pablo Angel (Cesar Romero, 46).

Yellow cards: LaBrocca 61, Nakazawa 73.

Referee: Chris Penso. Att.: c. 50.

CHIVAS USA PRESEASONFeb. 3 vs. FC Hasental (NPSL): W, 5-0 (Lahoud 22, Angel pen. 24, Smith 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, 60 mins.: W, 1-0 (Townsend 2)

Feb. 16 vs. Galaxy: L, 2-3 (Lahoud 53, Romero 77)

Record: 2-4-0; vs, MLS: 1-3-0

Jan. 27 vs. Ventura County Fusion (PDL), 60 mins.: L, 0-1

Remaining games

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.