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Chivas USA beats L.A. Galaxy, 1-0, at Home Depot Center

Jose Correa scores the winning goal. Juan Agudelo and Danny Califf make their debuts for Chivas.

May 19, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Chivas' Jose Correa, left, and Galaxy's David Junior Lopes vie for the ball during Chivas' 1-0 victory Saturday night at Home Depot Center. Correa scored on a penalty kick after Lopes was whistled for a hand ball in the 70th minute.
Chivas' Jose Correa, left, and Galaxy's David Junior Lopes… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Chivas USA has undergone more alterations than Kirstie Alley's wardrobe in its eight seasons as a Major League Soccer franchise.

Chivas got its latest new era off to a noteworthy start Saturday with a 1-0 win over the Galaxy before an announced crowd of 18,800 at the Home Depot Center.

The win was noteworthy in part because it was the first for Chivas against its stadium roommate since 2007 and just the sixth in 23 meetings overall, vaulting Chivas over the defending MLS champions in the Western Conference standings. But it's also worth noting that the win — Chivas' first in more than a month — came in the debuts for striker Juan Agudelo and defender Danny Califf, who are being counted on to usher in a new epoch for a team that hasn't had a winning season or made a playoff appearance since 2009.

"It's a starting point for where we're headed," Coach Robin Fraser said. "We're coming together. That energy and excitement is being rewarded. Tonight we looked like a more confident group."

Neither of the new players figured in the game's only goal, which came on a Jose Correa penalty kick after Galaxy defender David Junior Lopes was whistled for a hand ball in the 70th minute.

But Califf, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Philadelphia Union, may have saved the win in the 81st minute with a spectacular diving deflection of a long David Beckham cross intended for Chad Barrett deep in the 18-yard box.

The immediate future of the franchise, however, may belong to the 19-year-old Agudelo, an exciting forward who came over from the New York Red Bulls minutes before Califf was acquired. Agudelo got off to a more dubious start with Chivas, playing 75 minutes without getting off a shot.

To get both players, Chivas, which has never had a reputation for spending freely, loosened the purse strings considerably, spending what the club termed a "significant amount" in allocation money and reportedly taking on about $250,000 more in salary obligations for the players they traded away. That, too, is something new.

"I don't think it's about cheap. It's about spending wisely," said Chivas General Manager Jose Domene who, at 31, is proving to be aggressive and creative in a job he's had just 18 months. "We're not other teams that break the bank and just bring names. It's about bringing people that can contribute."

Talk about awkward. Domene didn't mention any names but the Galaxy, with the highest payroll and three of the highest-profile players in the league in Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, might fit that description. And the contributions of those three were extremely limited Saturday since Keane didn't even dress because of a strained hamstring and Beckham, jet-lagged from a midweek trip to England, sat out the first 74 minutes.

Their contributions will be even less over the next couple of months. Keane is leaving this week to join the Irish national team for the UEFA Euro and won't be back until late June. Donovan is expected to be called up to U.S. national team Sunday, and Beckham could soon be leaving to join the British Olympic team.

Agudelo and Califf, presumably, aren't going anywhere. But Chivas might.

"We will get to the playoffs," Domene promised. "We want to be an elite team."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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