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Things looking up for Chivas, finally, after win over Portland

Welcome back, Marcos.

The return of starting forward Marcos Mondaini following a four-game suspension arrived none too soon for home-challenged Chivas USA.

His classic finish, coming in the 70th minute, was the crucial difference Saturday night at Home Depot Center in Carson. It lifted Chivas to a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers, the team’s first win in four games. The expansion Timbers have yet to win on the road.

After lifting Chivas, Mondaini dropped to his knees next to and slightly behind the goal, raising two fingers in celebration.

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Perhaps it should have been four fingers, one for each game he missed. He was suspended and fined $1,500 for injuring Javier Morales of Real Salt Lake on May 7.

“Marcos was very good,” Chivas Coach Robin Fraser said. “From his first touch of the game, I think he took on a few guys, and got around the corner and was getting into the corner and getting into dangerous crossing positions.

". . . In spite of the incident that happened with himself and Javier, Marcos is a wonderful person and he feels a responsibility because he feels like he’s letting the team down. So the fact that he came back, with this attitude, that he really wanted to help the team . . . I thought he was very good in that respect.”

The back story on the goal wasn’t just about Mondaini, however. The sharp cross from the right flank that helped set it up was from none other than starting midfielder Paulo Nagamura, who had just returned from a calf injury Wednesday against Vancouver, coming on as a substitute and playing 30 minutes.

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He had been limited to 31 minutes of action after initially hurting his calf April 16 at Vancouver.

His inclusion in the starting lineup Saturday was one of several changes. Jorge Flores was back in the starting lineup, coming off his one-game suspension, and another oft-injured player, midfielder Michael Lahoud (concussion), also started.

Fraser had decried the lack of team energy in the first half of Wednesday’s tie against the Whitecaps.

But passivity was most definitely not the enemy for Chivas (4-4-5) against the Timbers (5-5-2).

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Not when the home team racked up three yellow cards in the first 35 minutes and one in the second half. Or when it managed to generate two quality scoring chances in the first eight minutes and another in first-half stoppage time.

Until the lone goal, the enemy was shaping up to be the Home Depot Center. Chivas came in with a 1-3-2 record on its home pitch.

But that changed for the better Saturday.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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