CARSON, Calif. – Needing a win against Chivas USA to advance to the SuperLiga semifinals, Mexican side San Luis was two minutes away from doing just that.
But Atiba Harris had other plans.
Harris bagged an 88th-minute equalizer and Chivas USA held on to tie San Luis 1-1 to close out Group A at Home Depot Center on Saturday.
The result did nothing for Chivas’ SuperLiga hopes, dashed by Tigres who earlier in the day beat Chicago 2-1. But San Luis’ opportunity to reach the tournament semifinals came to a crashing and unexpected end.
“I liked the way my team played,” San Luis manager Juan Antonio Luna said in a post-match press conference. “We worked hard for nearly 90 minutes. We needed just two minutes to finish well. The result, I did not like one bit since it left us out of the tournament.”
San Luis had taken a 1-0 lead when Alfredo Moreno scored a goal in the 53rd minute. Moreno, who returned to San Luis after spending time with America and Necaxa, scored a penalty kick in the opening stages of the second half to give his club a lead. San Luis had earned the penalty when Chivas USA goalkeeper Lance Parker – a halftime substitute – tripped up Jose Reyes inside the penalty area.
Despite Moreno’s goal, though, San Luis could not build on it and eventually failed to put another goal away. Technically, the club did that as Reyes and Moreno each found the back of the net in the dying moments of the game, but both goals were called back due to offsides. Also, San Luis
Such officiating decisions did not sit well with San Luis players.
“I guess as the visiting team we got screwed,” San Luis defender Michael Orozco said. “I guess it’s just part of the game and we have to move on.”
Orozco, a native of Orange, Calif., and a 2008 U.S. Olympian, said the team was at fault, though, for letting Harris score in the first place.
“You are up 1-0 and anything can happen in the last two minutes,” Orozco said. “The rival team always tries to push a little more and it can go both ways, either you score or they tie and that’s exactly what happened. We had to be more concentrated in the defensive end.”
For the hosts, the game was essentially a friendly since Chivas’ hopes ended about 20 minutes before kickoff. That the club was able to overcome a deficit left the club with a good feeling.
“Overall it was a good performance by the team, especially since that game means nothing,” Chivas coach Preki said. “We could have just easily gone on the field and after we gave up a goal we could have gone down two, three or four but no, we had fight in us and played for each other. That’s good to see that we got our mentality back that we had.”
Chivas will play a U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday at the Charleston Battery but will not play a league match until a July 11 tilt with the Los Angeles Galaxy. To help revive their league hopes, Chivas’ effort against San Luis was necessary, players said.
“So far the last couple of games the result hasn’t gone in our favor, and I think tonight served as a last preseason for the final phase of the league that’s what we’re aiming at right now,” defender Shavar Thomas said.
The club may not have won and may not have escaped SuperLiga but the team is starting to show some signs of returning to their early-season form.
“We want to get back to where we were earlier in the season to sort of stamp our authority, our force in the game and show our toughness physically and also to play the game how we usually do. To get that style and conditioning is good for us.”
Luis Bueno, Goal.com
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