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Goals dry up for Chivas

Times Staff Writer

It ended badly but not in defeat.

Chivas USA bowed out of the Major League Soccer playoffs Saturday night when it was held to a 0-0 tie by the Kansas City Wizards in front of 19,711 at the Home Depot Center.

Needing a two-goal victory to overturn a 1-0 first-game loss, Chivas did everything it could to score, but while the will was there, the ability was not.

The ability was sitting on the bench in the shape of injured forward Ante Razov, whose left knee sprain could not have come at a worse time. The league’s second all-time leading goal scorer might well have made the difference, but he was reduced to being an unwilling and unhappy spectator.

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Not that Chivas USA didn’t try. This is how close it came:

In the 59th minute, a Shavar Thomas header off a corner kick by Sacha Kljestan was headed off the Kansas City goal line by Wizards midfielder Kurt Morsink.

In the 69th minute, Maykel Galindo, playing despite an abdominal injury that required a cortisone shot and, later, an anti-inflammatory injection, snaked through the Wizards’ defense and fired an angled shot that crashed against the foot of the left post.

In the 90th minute, Galindo, who Chivas Coach Preki estimated was only at 65%, toe-poked the ball across the face of the net, but no one was on hand to apply the final touch and grab the all-important goal.

In stoppage time, a header by John Cunliffe slammed against the crossbar and rebounded clear.

All in all, Chivas outshot Kansas City, 16-8, including 7-3 in shots on target. But the goal never came.

A few inches was all that separated Chivas USA from a place in the Western Conference title game. Instead, it will be Kansas City that plays the defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo next weekend for a berth in the Nov. 18 MLS Cup final in Washington.

The other semifinal will see the New England Revolution, which edged the New York Red Bulls, 1-0, Saturday night, play the Chicago Fire for the Eastern Conference title.

Chivas USA, which lost only one game all season in Carson, had dreams of making it to the championship match, but it was not to be. Especially after Razov and Galindo, the team’s leading scorer, both were felled by injuries late in the season.

In its last five games, Chivas USA scored only one goal. Between them, Razov and Galindo had scored 23.

“It was hard for the team, after the season me and Ante had together,” Galindo said. “We did miss Ante a lot. We would have liked to have had him out there.”

Said veteran midfielder Jesse Marsch: “It would have been fun to play Houston in the [conference] final, but now I’ve got to watch it. I felt like we had some real potential to make a true run at it. We just couldn’t score.

“I knew when Ante went down [with the knee injury] in Dallas, that that was going to be a hit for us. But we still gave it everything we had as a group and it was good soccer. It was intelligent. It was done right.”

At the end, after the final whistle had sounded and the fans had begun trudging disconsolately out of the stadium, Chivas USA’s players made a point of thanking them.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and midfielders Kljestan and Paulo Nagamura, followed by the rest of the Chivas USA players, made the long trek down to end where the Legion 1908 faithful, the team’s most passionate fan group, held sway all season.

First Guzan, then the other players, raised their arms and applauded the fans. It was a sincere gesture and the fans returned it in kind.

It was the second year in a row that Chivas USA was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Last season, the Houston did the trick en route to its MLS championship.

“We all know this game can sometimes be cruel,” Preki said.

“If they totally outplayed us, I could accept that. But you’ve all seen it. As long as we play like we played -- positive, aggressive, offensive -- I’ve got no problem.”

Times staff writer Jaime Cardenas contributed to this report.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com


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