KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Midfielder Jesse Marsch last week referred to the first round of the Major League Soccer playoffs as a 180-minute game divided into four quarters.
That would mean Chivas USA left Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday down, 1-0, at halftime of the home-and-home, aggregate-goal series that now shifts to the Home Depot Center -- where Chivas had a league-best home record of 10-1-4.
As optimistic as that may sound, it's reflective of the mood in the Chivas' locker room after their 1-0 loss to the Wizards in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals in front of an announced crowd of 12,442.
The cause for the optimism is that despite playing without injured forwards Maykel Galindo (strained abdominal muscle) and Ante Razov (right knee sprain) -- a tandem that combined for 23 of the team's 46 goals during the regular season -- Chivas had more shots on goal and pushed the action more than the home team.
"The team is animated and very motivated, one goal is not that much of an advantage," midfielder Francisco "Pancho" Mendoza said in Spanish. "We saw that we can win and that we can come back. That gives us confidence and that's what motivates us."
Without Galindo and Razov, Coach Preki used a 4-5-1 starting formation instead of his usual 4-4-2. And he insisted in his postgame news conference that he tinkered with the formation looking for a win, not a tie.
"We played a little bit different and for most part I thought it was good," Preki said. "The thing is our goalkeeper didn't get a chance to make one good save. In most cases, I would expect [Brad] Guzan to make that save because that was like 30-plus yards outside the goal."
Davy Arnaud scored on a free kick from about 31 yards in the 35th minute. The ball barely squeezed in between a diving Guzan and the left post.
Guzan, who appeared startled to see that Arnaud's shot had cleared the three-man wall, called the score "unlucky" because it deflected off Paulo Nagamura's face.
Arnaud said the real reason the goal occurred was that he caught Guzan trying to cheat.
"I thought it was maybe a bit far out at first, but I looked up and [Guzan] was playing a bit far off, I think he was coming expecting a cross," Arnaud said. "I felt I might as well hit it. Why not? It worked out."
In the second half, Chivas had a chance to tie the score when Jonathan Bornstein sent in a cross to John Cunliffe that caught goalkeeper Kevin Hartman out of position. But Cunliffe's shot hit the top of the crossbar and went out of bounds.
Chivas needs to win the next game by a goal to force overtime, or by two goals to win the series without going into overtime.
Last year, Chivas beat Houston, 2-1, at home then lost the series on the road by losing the second-leg game, 2-0.