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Chivas USA shuts out the Revolution, 2-0

First-half goals by Justin Braun, his ninth of the season, and Paulo Nagamura help Chivas pass idle Houston in the Western Conference and keep the team's playoff hopes alive.

September 10, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

Promoting a "push for the playoffs" would seem to be a far-fetched notion with few games left in the regular season and still fewer victories in the bank.

Not for Chivas USA, though.

Major League Soccer's fifth-worst team in terms of wins and losses still fancies itself as a playoff contender, and after its 2-0 shutout of the New England Revolution in Carson on Friday night, who is to argue?

The victory, on first-half goals by Justin Braun and Paulo Nagamura, improved Chivas to 7-12-4 in 2010, good enough to escape last place in the Western Conference by leapfrogging the idle Houston Dynamo and sufficient to keep the team's playoff hopes flickering faintly.

"Definitely still alive," said Braun, who unexpectedly finds himself among the league's scoring leaders. "From day one we've always felt we could make the playoffs. We've just got to keep coming out and doing what we did tonight. We've got to win from here on out."

It was a deserved victory over a New England team that fell to 7-13-3 and seems to have lost its way this year, winning only once on the road and showing alarming gaps on defense. The Revolution managed seven shots on goal Friday, only three of them on target, and Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton had no difficulty in earning his fifth shutout of the season.

Chivas grabbed the lead a mere 5:46 into the match when Braun scored his ninth goal of the season off a slide-rule pass from fellow forward Alan Gordon.

The move began on the right flank, where Gordon slipped between two defenders before making the pass into the penalty area. New England defender Darrius Barnes and goalkeeper Matt Reis both went for the ball, but Braun was quicker and his angled shot was on target.

Braun, still only 23 and showing increasing promise, is in his third MLS season and has never scored more than four goals in a season until now.

"I'm starting to come into my own," he said. "I've played with a lot of confidence this year, which the coaches and my teammates around me have given me. It's always good when you've got a good group of guys around you helping you out."

Chivas USA had trounced New England, 4-0, in May and Friday's win showed that that road win was no fluke.

In the 26th minute, Gordon could have and should have scored his first goal for Chivas since his Aug. 5 acquisition from the Galaxy, but his header off a cross by Ante Jazic flashed wide of the left post.

It was not a costly miss because 10 minutes later Chivas USA did double its advantage, and Gordon again provided the key assist.

The goal, at 35:55, came when Nagamura fired a shot off goalkeeper Reiss' fingertips and into the lower left corner of the net. It was created by a cross by Michael Lahoud into penalty area and a tap back pass by Gordon into Nagamura's path.

Chivas USA continued to apply the majority of the offense, but its finishing was not as sharp as it should have been and the team had to settle for the two-goal victory.

That was enough, though, to keep the "push for the playoffs" alive for another week.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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