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Chivas, Crew click ahead of matchup

Fresh off an upset of Colorado, Preki's squad faces a surprising Columbus team.

May 31, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The last time Chivas USA and the Columbus Crew crossed paths it turned out to be one of the highlight games of the Major League Soccer season.

Columbus won, 4-3, in Ohio on April 12, and afterward Crew Coach Sigi Schmid said he didn't think his heart could take many more games like that.

The Crew had a 3-1 lead after 71 minutes, but Chivas tied the score with two goals in seven minutes before Columbus grabbed a late winner. Adding to the drama, Chivas' Francisco Mendoza and Sacha Kljestan were ejected after the Crew's fourth goal.

Tonight, Columbus is Chivas' opponent at the Home Depot Center, and both teams are enjoying a good run of results.

Despite being hammered by injuries that have cut his roster by a third, Chivas Coach Preki has conjured up three positive results in the last four games.

First, Chivas went to Texas and came away with a 0-0 tie against the defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo. A 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution was a setback, but Chivas rebounded to defeat four-time champion D.C. United, 3-1, for the first come-from-behind victory in team history. Finally, it traveled to Colorado last Saturday night and upset the Western Conference-leading Rapids, 2-1.

Veteran Jesse Marsch and teenager Jorge Flores have scored in each of the last two games, suggesting that when Preki has his full team available later in the season, last year's Western Conference winner could again be a contender.

Columbus has been one of the big surprises of 2008. After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, the Crew has found new life behind veteran Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Robbie Rogers and Alejandro Moreno.

Rogers, a second-year players from Huntington Beach who scored twice in the April game, leads the team with five goals. Moreno's four goals and three assists are the same as Kljestan, Chivas' scoring leader.

Another reason for Columbus' success has been goalkeeper Wil Hesmer, whose 1.11 goals-against average is second best in the league to the Fire's Jon Busch (0.67).

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TONIGHT

vs. Columbus, 7:30, FSNW, KAZA

Site -- Home Depot Center.

Radio -- 690.

Records -- Chivas USA 3-4-2; Crew 6-2-1.

Record vs Crew -- 0-1-0.

Update -- Only three points, or one victory, separate the top five teams in the West.

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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