Late Padilla strike gives Chivas 1-0 win

Goats and Whitecaps in a defensive struggle in Arizona

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – A late breakaway goal from second-half substitute Jesus Padilla pushed Chivas USA past the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0, on Friday, with both teams still laboring to find their preseason rhythm.

Padilla’s goal – which came when the Goats’ holdover from last season broke through the Whitecaps’ offside trap onto a long-ball from Michael Umaña in the 89th minute – was one of only a few real scoring chances for either team in the match.

Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser trotted out a starting lineup likely similar to the one he’ll use in the season opener on March 19 against Sporting Kansas City, but the Goats’ first line struggled to generate good chances against Jay DeMerit and Vancouver’s steady back line.

In fact, neither team managed a shot on goal until the Goats’ Mariano Trujillo buried a low shot from just inside the 18-yard box into Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly’s arms in the 30th minute. Chivas USA didn’t seriously threaten again until early in the second half, when Vancouver’s Jeb Brovsky took down Chivas USA midfielder Alan Gordon in the box, drawing a penalty kick.

Trujillo, however, missed the ensuing attempt wide left, leaving Vancouver’s second line to control most of the flow for the remainder of regulation.

The Whitecaps’ best scoring chance came off the foot of Brazilian trialist Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, who scorched a shot that was steered wide by Chivas USA’s Zach Thornton in the 76th minute.

Still, da Silva Sanvezzo and Steve Chiumiento were among the most impressive offensive players for the Whitecaps, who leaned heavily on long balls to striker Atiba Harris but never quite found a clean look at net.

The Vancouver defense was steady with DeMerit and centerback sidekick Greg Janicki. DeMerit left after 45 minutes as he continues to work on full fitness. Left back Alain Rochat was also in the starting lineup.

Chivas USA’s defense was anchored by centerbacks Jimmy Conrad and Zarek Valentin, but Friday’s game also saw the debut of recently acquired defender Heath Pearce. The former FC Dallas fixture logged 30 relatively uneventful minutes at right back before Umaña took his place.

Conrad, meanwhile, mixed it up with Harris in the early going in easily the testiest moment of the match, with Harris picking up a yellow for a tackle that led to the altercation.

The Goats started Alejandro Moreno at the top of a unique 4-1-4-1 formation, with Gordon and Blair Gavin anchoring the central midfield. Victor Estupiñian took Moreno’s spot in the second half but couldn’t generate a real scoring chance before Padilla’s goal saved the day.