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CHIVAS USA 1, SEATTLE 0

Eduardo Lillingston's goal lifts Chivas USA

He gets his team-leading fifth of the season in a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders.

June 07, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Suddenly, there's someone in the rear-view mirror.

For the first quarter or so of the Major League Soccer season, Chivas USA had things all its own way and was comfortably ahead in the Western Conference standings.

Then, the two-time MLS champion Houston Dynamo made its move.

Houston's 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in Texas on Friday extended the Dynamo's unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1), and lifted it into second place in the West, only three points behind Chivas.

That made Saturday night's game at the Home Depot Center between first-place Chivas and the third-place Seattle Sounders of rather more interest to both teams. It should have been a nail-biter and it was.

In the end, Chivas prevailed, 1-0, on a first-half goal by Eduardo Lillingston in a match in which his teammate and fellow Mexican, defender Claudio Suarez, made his first appearance of the season at the age of 40. "He's a warrior," Chivas Coach Preki said.

It was a fast-paced and entertaining match between two well-coached and technically proficient teams, both with a willingness to attack.

Seattle dominated possession and ended up outshooting Chivas, 11-6, but Lillingston's goal gave Chivas the coveted three points, lifting it six clear of Houston.

Preki had to do some patching and filling because of the absence of defender Jonathan Bornstein and midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who were with the U.S. national team, and midfielder Jesse Marsch, who was suspended.

Jorge Flores took Bornstein's spot at left back, while Michael Lahoud and Justin Braun took the place of Marsch and Kljestan. All three did well.

Seattle provided most of the offense and Chivas provided the only goal in the first 45 minutes.

The strike came in the 38th minute on the soccer equivalent of a fast break. Lillingston passed the ball to Maykel Galindo who in turn fed Paulo Nagamura.

Nagamura unleashed a hard shot that Sounders' goalkeeper Kasey Keller did well to block, but the ball rebounded to Lillingston, who finished the move he had begun by tucking it into the net for his team-high fifth goal of the season.

Lillingston, in his first MLS season, almost had a second goal in the 59th minute, but his delicate chip was headed off the goal line by Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who later sent a header over the Chivas crossbar when it seemed easier to score than to miss.

"Lillingston has done a decent job," Preki said. "He's come in and contributed. He's already scored five goals, important goals as well.

"We're looking for more from him. I always tell him, 'Eduardo, if you play simple one- and two-touch, you'll have more success in this league. If you start taking extra touches, because of the way this league is people will be on top of you and you'll give up the ball.'

"When he listens, he plays better. When he doesn't, he comes off."

The victory improved Chivas' record to a league-best 8-2-3. Seattle fell to 4-3-5.

Next up for Preki and his team is a Wednesday night road game against Houston -- the team in the rear-view mirror but now not quite as close as it was.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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