Chivas ends winless streak in extra time
They held a track meet at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night but called it a soccer game.
Chivas USA and Toronto FC ran flat-out for 90 minutes -- even though there was nary a gold medal in sight -- and at the end the home team edged the visitors at the wire.
In the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, one of the players who had run the least -- Toronto goalkeeper Greg Sutton -- accidentally allowed the game to slip literally through his fingers as Chivas won, 2-1, on a rare goal by Atiba Harris.
The victory by Coach Preki’s beleaguered side not only lifted its spirits but lifted it from sixth place to third in the Western Conference, good enough for a playoff place if the regular season ended now. Instead, there are eight games remaining.
Chivas (7-9-6) overtook the Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids and stayed ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes.
In the process, Chivas ended a six-game winless streak in MLS and a seven-game winless streak overall. It was enough to bring a broad smile of relief from Preki.
“It was a crazy game,” he said. “We created many opportunities, but it seemed like one of those nights when you just can’t catch a break, and then the break came in the last seconds of the game.”
Chivas USA outshot Toronto, 20-5, including 7-3 in shots on target, but it wasn’t until the dying seconds that its dominance paid off.
Harris, with only two goals in his previous 20 games for the club, was the difference. A corner kick was sent in from the left by Sacha Kljestan, Chivas defender Bobby Burling dummied the ball, allowing it to roll past him to Harris, who side-footed a shot from about 10 yards that went through Sutton’s hands and rolled just over the goal line.
“Atiba has been giving us a lot of minutes this year,” Preki said. “He had one or two opportunities tonight and finally he got a goal in the last seconds of the game, so I’m very happy for him. Hopefully he will get a lot of confidence from this.”
Toronto fell to 7-10-5 and remains in next-to-last place in the Eastern Conference. The teams play again in Canada next Saturday.
Coach John Carver’s squad had a point wrapped up before Sutton’s miscue, but Carver was not at all happy about his defense as a whole.
“You can’t defend like that,” he said. “I thought it was going to come earlier. It was suicide defending, and that’s not good enough. That was disastrous. For me, that’s the worst we’ve played. I’m absolutely furious.
“I’ll take my hat off to Preki. He changed things. He brought fresh legs on. Let’s be honest, I think they got the result they deserved.”
Toronto took the lead 18:41 into the game when Jim Brennan fired a rocket of a shot off an astute pass from Rohan Ricketts, but it took Chivas only 64 seconds to respond.
In a game of frequent breakaways, Alecko Eskandarian latched onto a long through ball from Ante Razov and slipped the ball between Sutton’s legs and into the net.
It was not the last moment of misery for Sutton.