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Penalty kicks haunt Chivas

October 20, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

There were two things that troubled Chivas USA Coach Preki on Sunday.

The first was referee Baldomero Toledo, who called two penalty kicks against Chivas, the first of which was saved by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy but the second of which, five minutes from the final whistle, gave the Colorado Rapids a 2-1 win at the Home Depot Center.

That kept the Rapids' Major League Soccer playoff hopes alive heading into the final weekend of the season and ended Chivas USA's club-record four-game win streak.

With Chivas (12-11-6) already having secured a playoff spot as well as second place in the Western Conference, the result bothered Preki less than the lack of intensity shown by his team.

"I kind of had a feeling it was going to be tough for us," he said. "From the first moment, I didn't think we were sharp, we were losing the ball too easily.

"But give them the credit. They came here, they wanted it more and they got it."

The two penalties provided the game's main talking points.

The first came in the 57th minute when Chivas defender Alex Zotinca was judged to have knocked down Colorado's Jordan Harvey, although the contact seemed minimal and incidental.

"I thought it was real iffy," said Chivas defender Jonathan Bornstein. "From my angle, it didn't look like anyone pushed him. I thought he just took a dive."

So did goalkeeper Kennedy, who threw himself low to his left to snag Tom McManus' shot to keep the score at 0-0.

"The call was really suspect," Kennedy said.

Ten minutes later, Colin Clark put Colorado (11-14-4) ahead with a powerful header off an Omar Cummings cross from the right, but Chivas USA tied it up within five minutes when Bornstein scored his second goal of the year.

That set up the game-deciding play in the 85th minute. Cummings ran into the Chivas USA penalty area and pushed the ball past defender Shavar Thomas, who turned and caught Cummings with his back side.

Cummings went down and referee Toledo pointed to the spot. This time, Conor Casey took the penalty, and although Kennedy again guessed correctly and dived to his left, the ball got past him.

"I had a good read on the second one too," Kennedy said. "Talk about a game of inches. If he places that ball anywhere else, it either goes out off the post or I get a touch and save it."

Preki didn't like either call by Toledo.

"They were very funny," Preki said. "I think not one of them is a penalty kick, because I just watched the replay on both, and I will make sure I call a couple of people" at MLS headquarters in New York.

Colorado Coach Gary Smith said he didn't think there was anything controversial about the calls.

"I don't think anybody, whoever the officials are, ever deliberately gives a free kick that they don't think is a free kick or makes a decision against somebody because they don't like him," he said. "What you hope is that those decisions just even themselves out."

In the playoffs, Chivas USA will play either Real Salt Lake, if Real wins or ties its season finale at Colorado on Saturday, or Colorado if the Rapids win.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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