Goats climb the mountain for crucial road draw

Maldonado debuts as Chivas USA rally at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto Stadium simply isn’t an easy place to play, and an even tougher place for visiting teams to win.

Real Salt Lake’s mountain fortress, which sits at an intimidating 4707 feet above sea level, has become arguably the toughest road trip in MLS. RSL have lost only twice there in the club’s last 75 MLS home games, and allowed just 12 draws.

That’s roughly a 81 percent win rate for Real Salt Lake at home, meaning Chivas USA were supposed to follow in the footsteps of six other MLS teams so far this season and go home empty-handed on Saturday night.

The thing is, they didn’t.

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“It’s not easy to come to [Rio Tinto Stadium] against the champions,” Chivas USA Head Coach Martín Vásquez said after the Goats’ 1-1 draw. “It’s a big field and it’s a high altitude. But we will take the point; it’s a good result considering the way things happened in the game. The effort and the load of nine games in 28 days, I think it was a good result and we will take it.”

Chivas USA conceded in the 66th minute to a Ned Grabavoy strike before finding an equalizer just three minutes later thanks to a low shot from Jesus Padilla that was mishandled by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

“It’s been a long month for us and we have had a lot of games,” Goats goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said. “We were in the 60th minute and we just gave up a goal to put us down 1-0. But once we scored our goal, we just wanted to make sure we didn’t give another one away.”

Saturday’s match marked the first MLS appearances for new Chivas USA signings Rodolfo Espinoza and Giancarlo Maldonado. The duo are still working out the kinks with their new teammates, but Maldonado managed to earn his first career assist on Padilla’s goal.

“I think he did well,” Vásquez said of Maldonado. “I think, at times, he was dangerous, and he was good with the ball. I think he needs a little more time to adjust, and with a couple of more games I think it will help. But I am happy with his performance.”

Maldonado made his debut for the Red-and-White in the 2010 SuperLiga, where he was able to get a feel for the Chivas USA system before stepping into MLS play.

“I felt good,” Maldonado said. “It was a very complicated team we were playing and it was a rival. But I think that the team gave everything they had during the 90 minutes and, at the end, we got out with a point and that is very useful for us.”

“I’m adapting little by little,” he continued. “I am gaining confidence and I think that the minutes that I am getting will help me improve.”

Chivas USA also got a strong performance from Kennedy in net. The UC-Santa Barbara alumnus has been filling in for usual starter Zach Thornton while Thornton recovers from an ankle injury.

“We came here and we didn’t want to give anything away early,” said Kennedy. “The saves I had to make were saves you can make as a ‘keeper because your defense is putting opposing players in tough situations.”

The Goats return home to host Eastern Conference leaders Columbus next Saturday at The Home Depot Center. It will mark the first time in nearly twenty-one days that the team won’t have a mid-week tournament game.

And with four points from their last two MLS road matches, the team is starting to regain the confidence that served it so well in the early part of the season.

“I was happy with the team’s performance,” Kennedy said. “We got a point and we said we were going to get out of here with at least a point, so we accomplished our goal. That’s a big boost for us.”