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Chivas USA beats San Jose Earthquakes, 3-2

Chivas USA Coach Martin Vasquez has been both patient and optimistic through his team’s struggles this season.

Saturday he became demanding.

After saying a victory would be the only acceptable outcome, Vasquez watched his players respond with an energetic 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, capping their most complete effort of the year.

Not that the bar had been set very high, mind you. The three goals Chivas scored Saturday was more they had scored in their first four games combined. It was also the most Chivas has scored in one game since October of 2008.

But for Vasquez, it just might be the start of something big.

“Maybe at times it wasn’t about playing pretty. But overall, I felt we played well,” Vasquez said. “And we earned that win.

“Hopefully we become consistent after finding out that we can play well and win.”

Still searching for solid combinations, especially in the midfield, Vasquez started rookies Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin, who know each other well after playing three seasons together at the University of Akron.

“We gave them the opportunity, we showed confidence. And they responded,” Vasquez said.

He then turned some of the playmaking over to Mariano Trujillo, and he responded too, matching Gavin’s assist on Chivas’ first goal with one of his own on Chivas’ second score.

But the goal that proved to be the game-winner came in the 87th minute, when Chukwudi Chijindu came off the bench, took a splendid 50-yard pass from Michael Lahoud that split a pair of San Jose defenders, and got off a strong right-footed kick that ricocheted off keeper Joe Cannon and into the left corner of the net.

At the time that looked to be nothing more than an insurance goal. But it wound up being the difference when San Jose’s Steven Beitashour scored on a sliding shot from about 20 yards out in extra time.

Chivas other second-half goal came on a header by Justin Braun, another addition to the starting lineup, who used his five-inch height advantage to leap over Beitashour and redirect a Trujillo pass into the net.

Vasquez’s team then spent most of the rest of the night trying to keep San Jose -- and especially striker Ryan Johnson -- at bay. In the 72nd minute Johnson took a pass from Steve Wondolowski directly in front of the Chivas goal and got off a strong right-footed shot. But keeper Zach Thornton got enough of his right hand on the ball to keep it out of the goal.

Three minutes later Johnson’s header off a corner kick got past Thornton but it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced harmlessly away.

The teams traded goals in the first half, with Sacha Kljestan scoring for Chivas (1-3-0) and Chris Wondolowski getting a penalty-kick goal for San Jose (2-2), which hasn’t beaten Chivas since the Earthquakes returned to the MLS in 2008.

And although that left Vasquez happy, it didn’t leave him satisfied.

“We’re expecting more,” he said. “There’s still a lot of things we have to improve on.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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