[SUPERLIGA]New England and Chivas USA took giant strides towards qualifying for the SuperLiga semifinals Wednesday night by scraping out 1-0 victories against their Mexican rivals in Group B.
Rev Khano Smithconverted a controversial stoppage-time penalty kick to edge defending SuperLiga champion Pachuca at Gillette Stadium and Ante Razov glanced home a fine Sacha Kljestan cross to knock off Santos at Home Depot Center.
Had the Chivas USA-Santos match ended in a tie, New England (2-0) would have clinched a semifinal spot regardless of its result Saturday in the group finale against Chivas USA (1-1).
Instead, none of the four teams is eliminated, not even Santos (0-2); three teams can finish with three points apiece if the Revs beat Chivas USA and Santos knocks off Pachuca on Sunday. In that case, second place would be decided by goal difference.
Smith converted his penalty kick seven minutes into stoppage time after Julio Manzur blocked a Sainey Nyassicross with his arms, which were folded in front of him when the ball struck them. Despite furious protests, referee Walter Quesada pointed to the spot and Smith, who'd threatened several times throughout the match and fired one shot narrowly wide, slammed his kick past keeper Miguel Calero.
Wide-open play and end-to-end rushes produced numerous chances for both teams. Revs coach Steve Nicol, deprived by injury of regulars Steve Ralston, Jeff Larentowicz, Taylor Twellman, Mauricio Castro and Chris Albright, sent out Smith, Pat Phelan and Chris Tierney in a 4-4-2 formation. Nyassi, Kenny Mansally and Kheli Dube scorched Pachuca with their speed, and Shalrie Joseph delivered numerous useful balls into the attacking half of the field.
"Stevie was going nuts; he didn't want me to take it," said Smith of the debate that ensued since regular penalty-taker Ralston wasn't available. "But I asked Shalrie if I could have it and he said, 'Yeah, go ahead.' If I would have missed it, I'm sure [Nicol] could have had something to say about it."
Calero stopped Dube with sharp saves on either side of halftime, and with Pachuca's best chance Damian Alvarez hit a wicked, dipping shot that stretched Matt Reis, who nicked it onto the post.
"He hit the snot out of the ball," said Reis. "That thing was moving all over the place. I got a piece of it, luckily it went off the post and out."
A mid-air collision between Nyassi and Phelan as they went for a corner kick necessitated the lengthy stoppage time. Phelan lay on the ground for several minutes following the collision and left the field on a stretcher.
At the HDC, Dan Kennedy took over the goalkeeping chores from Lance Parker in game two of the post-Brad Guzan era, and made four saves as Chivas USA piled up 22 fouls and generated just one shot on goal in a scrappy encounter.
That one effort on goal, in the 73rd minute, provided Razov the opportunity to notch his fourth straight game with a goal. Some slick passing worked the ball to Kljestan in space on the right flank, and he lofted a perfect cross that Razov clinically sent past keeper Oswaldo Sanchez on the bounce.
Roberto Nurse, whose acquisition was announced Tuesday following several weeks of training with Chivas USA, jumped right into the starting lineup as a lone striker before being replaced by Razov at halftime.
Christian Benitez blasted a shot off the crossbar in the 12th minute and Kennedy repelled a hard shot from New Mexico-born outside backEdgar Castillo five minutes before halftime. Former Chivas USA midfielder Juan Pablo Garcia got the start for Santos in place of Juan Pablo Rodriguez, who served a suspension for throwing an elbow in last weekend's match against the Revs.
A very close offside decision went against Santos in the 89th minute. A foul by Jonathan Bornsteingave Santos a free kick on the right side; replays indicated no offside situation had been present as the ball was played, but referee's assistant Rohan Thorboune raised his flag as Fernando Ortizheaded the ball past Kennedy and referee Courtney Campbelldisallowed the goal.