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Garcia's Late Goal Gives Chivas a Tie

A 1-1 draw with FC Dallas keeps club in the hunt for a playoff spot as a trip to Texas looms.

September 10, 2006|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

When Francisco "Paco" Palencia is not on the field, Juan Pablo Garcia is arguably Chivas USA's most creative player.

Long on talent but short on patience, the 24-year-old from Guadalajara has been heard to mumble at times this season that he has not received his fair due in Major League Soccer, which he views as a stepping stone to Europe.

On Saturday night, "Loco" got all the applause he desired after scoring a late goal as Chivas USA fought back to tie FC Dallas, 1-1, at the Home Depot Center and thus cling desperately to its playoff spot.

Garcia's joy at scoring mirrored his team's relief at the having salvaged a crucial point.

The Western Conference race is pretty much in Dallas' hands now. The team has a division-best 14-8-4 record and leads the second-place Houston Dynamo by 10 points with half a dozen games left. Chivas USA (8-7-11) and the Colorado Rapids are only one point behind Houston, however, and the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are only another three points back. Only the top four teams make the playoffs.

"Every game continues to be incredibly important," said Chivas USA Coach Bob Bradley, whose squad travels to Texas this week to play at Dallas on Wednesday and at Houston next Sunday.

"This series with Dallas has the feel of a playoff series. Certainly, our idea now is to go down and try to take three points" on Wednesday.

"I'd love to feel in this trip that we could take four or six points. As we continue to push ourselves, that'll be the way we talk."

In a game that was wide open and entertaining, Chivas outshot Dallas, 20-15, including 7-4 in shots on target, but Bradley's team just could not find a way to put the ball in the net.

In the first 15 minutes, Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza had a point-blank shot blocked by Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala and a second shot that beat Sala but hammered the crossbar and bounced clear.

Garcia skied an effort from close range.

It went that way much of the evening, with Chivas USA playing attractive, creative soccer but failing in the final third. Dallas, meanwhile, was just as dangerous, especially on the break.

It was not surprising, then, that Dallas took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Kenny Cooper fired a shot from 19 yards that flew into the far corner of the net.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, celebrating his 22nd birthday with his first start since May 20 after Preston Burpo had started the last 19 matches, had no chance at the save.

"It was an easy game for me, I didn't have too much to do," he said. "Kenny Cooper had a great strike for the goal and there were a couple of other things here and there, but it was a day when we were just unlucky on the other side of the ball.

"It's good to be back in there. Unfortunately, we couldn't get three points.... Tying at home, tying on the road, tying all over the place, I don't know if it's going to get the job done."

A win on the road could be the answer.

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