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MLS's best serve up a thriller
by Ridge Mahoney, May 29th, 2009 7AM

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[MLS] A clasico turned into a bit of a fiasco Thursday night at Home Depot Center, where amid a blizzard of yellow cards and penalty kicks, Chivas USA squandered a 2-1 lead and lost to Chicago, 3-2, in a showdown of conference leaders.

Six minutes into stoppage time, Cuauhtemoc Blanco converted his second penalty kick of the game to notch Chicago's third straight road win and snuff out determined resistance from Chivas USA, which lost captain Jesse Marsch to his second caution in the 63rd minute. Chicago (5-0-6) maintained its unbeaten record this season, and Chivas USA (7-2-3) lost for the first time at home.

Patrick Nyarko equalized in the 89th minute and a 2-2 finish seemed inevitable until Brian McBride went down in the penalty area when pushed by Chivas USA defender Mariano Trujillo, and referee Terry Vaughn pointed to the penalty spot. Blanco drilled his shot to the left of goalie Zach Thornton, who had been beaten to the other side when Blanco converted his first penalty kick to tie the score, 1-1, in the 25th minute.

Blanco's first goal followed an opening score by midfielder Paulo Nagamura, whose hopeful shot from 35 yards deceived Fire keeper Jon Busch and bounced past him in the 16th minute. Then ensued the parade of penalties and cards.

Defender Shavar Thomas dragged down Fire counterpart Wilman Conde to produce the first Blanco spot kick, and a clumsy, foolish tackle by Chicago's Bakary Soumare on Maykel Galindo just inside the field of play in the 37th minute offered up a penalty that Galindo tucked away to restore a Chivas USA lead.

At that point, Vaughn had issued just two cautions, but as the chippiness and intensity escalated, the referee tried to keep control. Conde (39th minute) went into the book next, a scuffle between Galindo and Gonzalo Segares two minutes later drew cautions for both of them, and before the halftime whistle a rough challenge near the sideline promoted Fire coach Denis Hamlett to bark at Sacha Kljestan, who several times suggested rather impolitely that Hamlett "f*** off!"

Vaughn issued Marsch his first caution in the 51 st minute for kicking an opponent with a high foot during a slide tackle and nailed him again for doing much the same thing a dozen minutes later. (In between Marsch's yellows, Blanco earned his obligatory caution for complaining.) To spark his attack, Hamlett brought on Justin Mapp and Nyarko, and their linkups with Blanco and McBride triggered a sequence of chances, one of which yielded a sharp Nyarko shot that Thornton saved superbly.

With the Fire's attacking thrusts weakening, Nyarko struck his equalizer when a deflected pass from Mapp skipped behind the Chivas USA back line for him to drive calmly past Thornton. The teams slugged it out in midfield until a long ball played out of midfield aimed at McBride set up a tumultuous ending.

The caution total rose to 11 in the seconds following Vaughn's stoppage-time call, as Trujillo took a card for his "push" on McBride, and defender Carey Talley got one for delaying the taking of the kick, which didn't dissuade Blanco.

In addition to the 11 yellows, there were 28 shots, 28 fouls, 10 corners, five goals, no assists, zero offsides, and an announced crowd of 20,379 fans, who were in a fury and/or a frenzy for most of a frantic and riveting match.

Chicago is back in action at home Sunday against FC Dallas. Chivas USA sits out the weekend and welcomes Seattle to HDC a week from Saturday.

May 28 in Carson, Calif.
Chivas USA 2, Chicago 3.

Goals: Nagamura 18, Galindo (penalty kick) 37; Blanco (penalty kicks) 25, 96, Nyarko 89.
Chivas USA - Thornton; Trujillo, Thomas, Talley, Bornstein, Kljestan, Marsch, Nagamura, Harris (Stepanovich, 92), Lillingston (Victorine, 64), Galindo (Chijindu, 82).
Chicago - Busch; Ward (Nyarko, 72), Soumare, Conde, Segares (Husidic, 83), Rolfe, Pause, Thorrington, Pappa (Mapp, 59) Blanco, McBride.
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Att.: 20,379.



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