CARSON, Calif. -- The Sounders FC had a tall task in front of them when they went to the Home Depot Center to face the Western Conference leading Chivas USA. Seattle would have to take on the unbeaten LA-based club without the services of goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller after his red-card ejection in last week’s 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards.
Seattle’s deficiencies, however, came on the offensive end, where they struggled against Chivas USA’s physical play managed only two shots on goal. Chivas eventually came out a 2-0 winner, extending their lead in the Western Conference to four points.
Chris Eylander made his first MLS start and it looked like Fredy Montero would stake him to an early lead. Freddie Ljungberg led the Sounders leading scorer on a great run up the middle of the field. Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton scrambled off his line and Montero tried to chip it over the imposing veteran, but his shot fell just wide of the net.
“I know as a forward, you think, ‘maybe I could’ve hit the ball hard and low and slipped it past him,’ but the main thing is, at that moment in the game, where if we have a chance to go up 1-0, it changes the entire complexion of the game,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said.
In the 32nd minute, Chivas struck back when Jonathan Bornstein chased down a ball inside the box just outside the left post. He slid a cross toward the front of the net and James Riley tried to clear it, but instead redirected it into the net for an own-goal, giving Chivas a 1-0 lead.
Seattle had another opportunity just before the close of the half when Nate Jaqua crossed a ball to Sebastien Le Toux, but Thornton came up big in knocking down Le Toux’s header and keeping the Sounders at bay with a 1-0 deficit.
In the second-half, rookie forward Chukwudi Chijindu made his mark. Subbing on in the 56th minute, the University of Connecticut product made threats to the Sounders defense in the 60th and 62nd minutes but was turned away.
Seattle’s second-half sub, Steve Zakuani also made a quick impact, taking the ball up the left side of the box on several occasions, but the Sounders couldn’t find the back of the net.
Chijindu capitalized in the 84th minute when Bojan Stepanovic crossed a ball to him from the left side and Chijindu slid it past Eylander for a 2-0 lead.
“I’m upset we didn’t win. We started well and had a great chance with Freddy in the first half. Maybe on the first goal we could’ve done a little better on the through ball that came in, and stuff like that, but that’s how it is,” Ljungberg said. “We probably kept the ball well. They defended well, especially the second half. They broke on us and got the second goal when we tried to push for an equalizer.”
Eylander finished with two saves in the losing effort.
“They didn’t have a lot of shots on goal, but I had a lot to do with my feet,” Eylander said. “Unfortunately the two good chances they did have on us… resulted in goals.”
The loss dropped the Sounders to 3-2-0 (9 points). Chivas USA improved to 4-0-1 (13 points), leading the Western Conference. The Sounders return home next week to face the San Jose Earthquakes (1-2-2, 5 points) on Saturday at Qwest Field.