2010 in Review: Best & worst of Chivas USA

Braun, Espinoza emerge in transition year for retooling Goats

CARSON, Calif. – Things didn’t go quite as planned for Chivas USA in 2010. The team struggled to find its best form for much of the season under rookie head coach in Martín Vásquez and, after a promising start, eventually sank to last place in the Western Conference.

The year was the club’s first since 2005 without a postseason appearance and ended with Vásquez’s dismissal after just 11 months on the job. The silver lining for a young Red-and-White squad was an appearance in the semifinals of the US Open Cup – the club’s first-ever semifinal appearance in any major tournament.

Best moment of the year

The Goats traveled to Gillette Stadium on May 5 looking for their first road win of the season. They got it in emphatic style, mauling New England for a dominating 4-0 shutout victory. Jesus Padilla struck twice and Justin Braun and Blair Gavin each added one in what was the only game all season in which Chivas USA notched more than three goals. This was the most complete win all year for the Red-and-White.

Worst moment

Fighting back from a goal down to pull even at 2-2 with just 10 minutes to go at RFK Stadium on May, Chivas USA ultimately conceded an 89th-minute penalty kick to former defender Carey Talley for a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to D.C. United. The defeat was the third in a string of last-minute blunders from the Goats that saw the team stumble into a six-game losing streak.

Best goal

In the 25th minute of a home date vs. San Jose on April 25, Goats veteran Sacha Kljestan received a long pass from rookie Blair Gavin and blasted a howitzer from 25 yards out that dipped into the net for a 1-0 lead. It was the kind of classy goal that only Kljestan could hit – and one that no doubt helped him secure a move to Belgian First Division giants Anderlecht in June.

WATCH: Kljestan's laser against Earthquakes

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Best save

Trailing Seattle at Qwest Field on Oct. 15, Zach Thornton was called into action in the 62nd minute when Steve Zakuani leapt into the air to head a Fredy Montero cross toward goal. Only a diving reflex save from Thornton kept the ball out of the net and kept Chivas USA in the game. It was a breathtaking moment from the 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and one that suggests he may have a few more miles left in the gas tank.

Team MVP: Justin Braun

Braun really grew into his own under Vásquez. Finally given freedom to roam at the head of the Chivas USA offense, the third-year striker notched a career-best nine goals and three assists. He was consistently dangerous in the Goats’ attack and served as one of the cornerstones for a Red-and-White lineup that seemed to be constantly changing.

Best Newcomer: Rodolfo Espinoza

A veteran of both the Mexican and Peruvian first divisions, Espinoza arrived at Chivas USA on July 14 and immediately had an impact. Playing on the wing, the 29-year-old provided great service from out wide and helped bring stability to the attack. He notched three assists and a goal in 15 appearances and looks likely to become an important piece of the team’s offense in 2011.

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