Montreal's Zarek Valentin, center, tries to break away from Chivas… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Jorge Villafana's season started with such promise, with the midfielder being selected for the under-23 national team and a shot at the Olympic Games. Then the U.S. failed to qualify for London and Villafana lost his starting job with Chivas USA.
Lately he's found himself sitting on the bench next to Juan Pablo Angel, a three-time Major League Soccer All-Star and the highest-paid player on the roster but a player who, like Villafana, has spent more time watching than playing this season.
Just when the pair appeared on the verge of being forgotten, they came on as late second-half substitutes and teamed up for the deciding goal in Chivas' 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday at the Home Depot Center.
"I want to play all the time," Angel said. "But at the end of the day a decision has to be made and it's not mine to make."
He certainly made the most of his playing time against Montreal.
Angel hadn't even broken a sweat before he broke a 1-1 tie, heading in a perfectly placed Villafana cross from about 12 yards out in the 82nd minute to give Chivas just its second home win of the season. And it was his first goal in nearly a month — but then he hasn't started five of Chivas' last nine games.
"We know Juan is a very good player. And a very good goal-scorer. He's shown that for a long time," Chivas Coach Robin Fraser said. "There are certain situations where we think he's best [playing] from the beginning and certain situations where his insertion is big late in games."
Chivas' first goal — its fourth in nine matches at the Home Depot Center — came in the 14th minute. And given the rarity of a Chivas score at home, it should come as no surprise that there was some confusion as to what had actually happened.
Cesar Romero, making his second start of the season, began the sequence with a corner kick that bent nicely into the box. Juan Agudelo rushed after it and got his right foot in front of the ball, which eventually wound up in the back of the net.
Agudelo celebrated as if he had scored — which is the way the goal was originally announced. But a few minutes later Agudelo was given an assist instead after the ball was ruled to have touched teammate Alejandro Moreno before crossing the goal line.
Chivas managed to hold that lead for 28 minutes, which may not sound like much but it's four minutes longer than the team had led at home in its previous eight matches combined.
Felipe Martins ended that streak in the 42nd minute, breaking into the box and driving a right-footed shot past Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy and into the lower left corner.
That left it to Angel, who came on with 13 minutes left in regulation, to break the tie and lift Chivas to within a point of the final Western Conference playoff berth.
"It felt good because we need to score more goals," Angel said. "This game's about winning and any time we can do that it feels good."
Times staff writer Andrew John contributed to this report.