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Chivas USA loses, 1-0, to Houston in season opener

The Dynamo's Andre Hainault scores two minutes into stoppage time. Chivas, however, finds positives to take away from the loss to last season's MLS Cup runner-up.

March 11, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell blocks a shot by Chivas USA forward Juan Pablo Angel in the first half Sunday at Home Depot Center.
Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell blocks a shot by Chivas USA forward Juan Pablo… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Chivas USA played a soccer game it didn't win Sunday.

Nothing new about that. The team has won just 16 times in the last two years combined.

But in this case, a 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Andre Hainault's goal two minutes into stoppage time felt almost like a victory.

Almost.

"I'll never say I'm happy with a loss," goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said after his team's Major League Soccer season opener, played before a Home Depot Center crowd generously announced at 14,464.

"But there's definitely positives to take from this game."

Like the fact that Chivas, missing injured starters Michael Lahoud (hamstring) and John Valencia (quadriceps), played last season's MLS Cup runner-up even through 90 minutes. Or the fact that Chivas, starting six players who weren't on the roster for last season's opener, finally jelled as a team.

"If this game is a starting point for what is a relatively new group, I'm encouraged about where we're going to be," second-year Coach Robin Fraser said.

But at the same time, Fraser is less interested in moral victories and more interested in ones that are reflected in the standings.

" 'Almost' doesn't mean all that much," he said. "At the end of the day when you look back at this result, nobody's going to think 'almost.' It's going to be a 1-0 defeat.

"That's a reality."

The deciding play started innocently enough, with Houston's Brad Davis sending a corner kick toward the goal that Kennedy punched away. Adam Moffat gathered in the rebound just outside the penalty area and sent it back toward the net, ricocheting a shot off a Chivas defender to Hainault, who booted it home.

"It happened so quick," said Kennedy, who had eight saves. "It was just a really unlucky play. To lose like that, it's almost unbelievable."

What was predictable was the Chivas offense. Shut out 12 times last year, Chivas is scoreless again a game into the new season. And that's something that has to change, Fraser said.

"We had some very good sequences and created some very good chances," he said. "However, you do look at the fact that we don't close the game out. We have to make some critical and decisive plays late … to win or lose games."

Most of those scoring chances Sunday belonged to Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel, who chipped a shot into keeper Tally Hall's waiting arms in the 14th minute, redirected a corner kick off the goal post just before the half and sent a diving header over the net in the 70th minute.

On the other end of the field Kennedy kept the game scoreless by making saves on point-blank shots by Moffat, Will Bruin and Colin Clark during a 10-scan span late in regulation time.

When it was all over, though, Chivas had lost — even if they felt as if they'd won.

"The good thing is we know a little bit more where we're at," Kennedy said. "I think we should feel pretty good."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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