When two bad teams meet, the difference very often turns out to be one good player.
That seemed to be the case Saturday night at the Home Depot Center, where struggling D.C. United rode the talents of former Argentine World Cup midfielder Marcelo Gallardo to a 1-0 halftime lead over Chivas USA.
Then, in a thoroughly unexpected turn of events, Chivas USA answered with two late goals from two good players -- Jesse March and Sacha Kljestan -- and then got another from teenager Jorge Flores to come away with a memorable 3-1 Major League Soccer victory.
The result ended a five-game winless streak for Coach Preki's injury-decimated team, improved its record to 2-4-2 and moved last season's Western Conference winner from sixth place to a tie for third in the West.
This was the magnitude of the victory: It was the first time that Chivas USA has ever come from behind to win an MLS game and the first time it has ever beaten four-time league champion D.C. United.
"We needed something to get us going, something to get us to believe that we can play the way we played last year, even when we put the young guys on the field," Preki said. "All these guys are getting a chance, and now they're taking advantage of it."
First, however, came the Gallardo show.
A silver medal winner with Argentina at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics who went on to win a FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 1997 and to represent his country in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, he was the difference in the first 45 minutes.
His goal, at the half-hour mark, was purely the result of individual skill. Gallardo found himself with the ball about 20 yards from the Chivas goal and directly in front of the net.
Marking him was Marsch, filling in as a central defender because of injuries to Chivas USA's back line. The last time Marsch played the position, he said, was as a 13-year-old in his native Racine, Wis.
Gallardo faked going to his right, then cut back to his left as Marsch bought the fake. The Argentine then unleashed a rising shot from the edge of the penalty area that gave Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan little chance.
After that, Chivas adopted a new tactic -- it fouled Gallardo any time he came anywhere near the ball. That resulted in one yellow card and a few words of warning from referee Michael Kennedy.
It also resulted in Gallardo's complaining about the treatment he received and, after the halftime whistle, telling D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn to have a word with Kennedy. Soehn moved toward the officials and then thought better of it.
In the second half, Preki made a few more moves, bringing Marsch back into the midfield. Later, he yanked veteran striker Ante Razov from the match and put 19-year-old Flores on in his stead.
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Chivas USA's 3-1 victory over D.C. United was the first in club history over the MLS' most successful team. Previous results in the series
April 2, 2005 at Home Depot Center, L, 2-0.
Aug. 13, 2005 at Washington, L, 3-0.
April 8, 2006 at Washington, L, 2-0.
Sept. 3, 2006 at Home Depot Center, L, 2-1.
May 6, 2007 at Washington, L, 2-1.
Sept. 6, 2007 at Home Depot Center, T, 2-2.