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Razov’s Left Foot Starts Chivas on the Right Track

Times Staff Writer

Welcome home, Ante Razov.

The former UCLA and Galaxy forward made his Chivas USA debut Sunday afternoon and celebrated with a goal in each half as Chivas routed Real Salt Lake, 3-0, at the Home Depot Center.

More important than the result, however, was the way in which Chivas played -- fast-paced, flowing soccer, with the emphasis on attack but backed by a defense that was well marshaled by Claudio Suarez.

The crowd of 20,379 had arrived with some doubts. Chivas USA finished in last place in 2005, its 4-22-6 record making it the Major League Soccer doormat, and the off-season changes had been extensive.

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It is too early to say that first-year Coach Bob Bradley has turned that doormat into a finely woven rug, but the makings were there. Chivas USA played with confidence, its passing was crisp, its organization sound, its finishing effective.

Co-owner Antonio Cue was all smiles afterward.

“I think people were concerned about how we were going to play,” Cue said. “I think we played in a very Chivas way. We had a lot of [scoring] chances, we made some of them. More than that, the game was nice. Fans had a great time.

“I think we have the potential to compete in this league.”

Bradley has been coaching long enough to know that one victory does not a season make, but he was pleased nonetheless.

“Over the years, I’ve had players teach me that when you win you need to make sure that you let them enjoy it, and then you move on tomorrow,” he said. “You don’t say things right after the game about all the things that need to be better, the things that coaches see and think about.

“We felt throughout the preseason ... that we were going in the right direction. I think the players believe we can be a good team.”

Chivas USA came out fast and kept the pressure on Salt Lake, last season’s other MLS expansion club. By the end of 90 minutes, Chivas had outshot Salt Lake, 16-13, including 8-2 in shots on target.

Razov gave Chivas the lead in the 21st minute. Suarez sent a long pass downfield from the halfway line and Razov ran onto it, allowed the ball to bounce twice and then unleashed a left-foot shot that goalkeeper Scott Garlick got a piece of but could not stop.

Four minutes later, Sacha Kljestan, one of three rookies who started for Chivas, sent a through pass to Juan Pablo Garcia.

Garcia, nicknamed “Loco,” glanced up, saw Garlick off his line and lofted a shot up and over the goalkeeper from about 22 yards to double Chivas USA’s lead.

With Razov and fellow forward Francisco “Paco” Palencia keeping Salt Lake’s defense constantly ill at ease, and wingers Garcia and Francisco Mendoza probing deep down the flanks, Salt Lake was never able to get into the game.

Razov scored his second goal in the 65th minute, ending a weaving run with another fierce blast from his left foot. That was enough to finish off the visitors, who finished ahead of Chivas last season at 5-22-5.

“We’ve been working together for two months, talking about the way he wants to play, the way I want to play,” Palencia said of Razov, with whom he has established a close on-field rapport.

“We moved the ball well, we had a couple of nice sequences,” Razov said.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA has opted not to sign Mexico under-20 international winger Jesus Padilla but is expected to sign U.S. international midfielder John O’Brien within the next few days.


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