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Chivas USA off to a shaky start

New Coach Robin Fraser's squad loses opener to Kansas City, 3-2.

March 19, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones
  • Chivas USA's Nick LaBrocca, left, looks to play the ball under pressure from Davey Arnaud of Sporting Kansas City.
Chivas USA's Nick LaBrocca, left, looks to play the ball under pressure… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Jorge Vergara, the millionaire Mexican businessman who owns Chivas de Guadalajara and a share of Chivas USA, chose the wrong night to come out and see his American team.

"I'm not liking what I'm seeing so far," Vergara said at halftime of Chivas USA's season-opening match against Sporting Kansas City in Carson.

Chivas USA was trailing, 2-0, at the time en route to a 3-2 loss that got new Coach Robin Fraser off to a rocky start.

But Vergara has Fraser's back.

"He was in Guadalajara and we talked for several hours about this team and the goals we want to achieve," Vergara said. "I like him. I like him a lot. I believe that he's the right guy for the team. I'm confident he's going to do a great job with Chivas USA."

Things did not start out too well, however.

In fact, Chivas USA was behind by a goal a mere 1:45 into the season. First, though, the new-look Chivas lineup.

The 11 players sent out by Fraser for his first game consisted of Zack Thornton in goal behind a back line of Heath Pearce, Jimmy Conrad, Zarek Valentin and Ante Jazic.

In midfield were Ben Zemanski, Nick LaBrocca and Francisco Mendoza, with Justin Braun, Marcos Mondaini and Alejandro Moreno listed as forwards.

Only one player in the starting lineup — Canadian international Jazic — had been in the Chivas starting lineup for the 2010 opener.

It will take time for things to settle, and that was evident almost immediately.

Kansas City was awarded a free kick in the second minute after a Chivas foul, and Luke Sassano sent an innocuous-looking ball into the penalty area.

Instead of leaving it for Thornton to gather, Zemanski tried to head it clear but succeeded only in putting it on the foot of Sporting rookie forward C.J. Sapong, who promptly fired it into the back of the net.

Stung by that setback, Chivas raised its game a notch but another defensive error, this time in injury time at the end of the half, allowed Kansas City's Mexican national team striker Omar Bravo to lift the ball over Thornton to make it 2-0.

Bravo used to play for Chivas de Guadalajara and was making his MLS debut, but Fraser has long been aware of the danger he presents.

"I got to follow him fairly closely at the 2006 World Cup," Fraser said. "I got to broadcast two of Mexico's games for ESPN and I liked him a lot. He's a busy, active player. He's not particularly flashy but he's very industrious. I just thought he ran everything down he needed to. He was intelligent in how he got forward and was relentless."

Conrad scored Chivas USA's first goal of the year 10 minutes into the second half, lashing in the loose ball after a corner kick had bounced off a Kansas City defender.

But Bravo secured the win for Sporting with a second goal in the 75th minute. A late Zemanski goal just made it close.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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