Goats down D.C. United

Braun's header goal, his eigth of the year, is the deciding goal in a 1-0 match

Chivas USA got a much-needed win on Sunday evening, holding D.C. United at bay for a 1-0 victory at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. A 13th minute goal from Justin Braun, his 8th of the 2010 season, would be enough for the Red-and-White’s 6th win of the season. The result moves the Goats to within one point of the Houston Dynamo at the bottom of the Western Conference, while D.C. United remains five points adrift of their Eastern Conference competition.

The match saw another strong performance from Braun, who is enjoying a breakout year. The 23-year-old has been a menace to opposing defenses all season and has started to generate buzz about the possibility of his inclusion in upcoming United States National Team games.

D.C. United started the game on the offensive, pushing forward early and controlling the tempo of play. Center-back Barry Rice almost put the visitors ahead within the first ten minutes when he blasted a shot from eighteen yards out that sailed just inches over the crossbar of Zach Thornton’s net.

Any momentum United was quickly destroyed by a quick counterattack goal from Braun that seemed to surprise everyone on the pitch except Braun himself. The play started back in defense, where Ante Jazic collected a short pass from Marcelo Saragosa at the center circle and turned up field. The Canadian international then lofted a long ball toward the box. Jazic’s effort looked destined for the head of United’s Barry Rice until Braun stepped in front of him and flicked a header that floated over Troy Perkins’ head and into the net for a 1-0 lead.  

Braun nearly found a second in the 35th minute. Leaping onto a deft pass from Giancarlo Maldonado at the top of United’s box, Braun sprinted forward past two DC defenders and broke open toward net. Only a strong sliding save from Perkins was able to smother the breakaway and hold the lead to one.

United finally started pushing back in the closing minutes of the first half but were unable to equalize before the break. The best chance came by way of midfielder Santino Quaranta, who drilled a line drive at the Chivas USA net from 25 yards away that bounced first off the crossbar, then off the back of Zach Thornton’s leg, and finally out of bounds for a corner kick.

DC continued pushing forward on the far side of halftime. Sparked by good distribution from Quaranta and the fresh legs of 17-year-old substitute striker Andy Najar, the visitors maintained strong possession and forced a handful of saves from Thornton. United almost broke through in the 69th minute when MLS Original Jaime Moreno put a good header on net from a corner kick, but his effort was cleared off the line by a leaping header from Marino Trujillo.

Taking advantage of United’s forward push, Chivas USA started to find seams in the visitors’ defense as the clock passed the 70-minute-mark. Braun provided most of the spark, hassling Troy Perkins and his backline with constant aggression and seemingly endless energy. He tested Perkins yet again in the 72nd minute with a long-range shot that the DC keeper only just managed to palm over the bar.

United continued attacking in the final ten minutes, but solid play from the Goats’ defensive corps kept the visitors at bay. Both teams will now turn their attentions to mid-week U.S. Open Cup matches, with Chivas USA travelling to Seattle and DC hosting Columbus. Both matches happen on September 1st and will determine the contenders for the October 5th final.