CARSON, Calif. – The sample size is small – only one game – but whenever Carlos Bocanegra or Erick 'Cubo' Torres play for Chivas USA, it wins.
The Goats went 14 futile MLS matches without a victory. Then, on Wednesday against Toronto FC, with Bocanegra and Torres making their debuts, Chivas USA finally snapped the streak.
Coach Jose Luis Real called the pair “a big difference.”
“Both the guys that stepped on, the new signings, were massive, a huge influence for the team,” Dan Kennedy said. “You can tell with where we're at we needed a boost, so they've brought that.”
Torres scored the game's only goal. With barely 10 minutes remaining, a Tristan Bowen feed allowed Cubo to cut infield onto his left foot and hit a heavily deflected shot past Joe Bendik.
By that point, Chivas USA had already played down a man for nearly an hour. Eric Avila was sent off after 25 minutes for a late challenge on Bobby Convey.
“Not only our defense, our forwards too – Cubo, Bowen, [Jorge] Villafana – all the players had a very good game in defense,” Real said.
Torres put both his shots on target and drew six fouls to help relieve the pressure on the Goats defense.
"He's a battler up there, he's a worker," Bocanegra said. "He did pretty well holding the ball – he was up there by him self today, so that's always hard against two strong center backs. That was nice to see. Hopefully there's a lot more goals in him."
In only the Goats' second shutout of the year, Bocanegra added a touch of resolve to the back line. He picked up a booking for upending Matías Laba early in the match and settled into a composed performance.
“Bocanegra is a superstar for me,” Real said.
The former U.S. national team captain joined this summer after a decade in Europe, with teams like Fulham, Rennes, Saint-Etienne and Rangers on his resume. The 34-year-old California native says 20 of his family members and friends were in attendance on Wednesday.
“It was cool to be back home playing in my hometown and then obviously with the win that made it pretty nice as well,” Bocanegra said. “Personally it was a nice experience to be back.”
Bocanegra last played on June 8 in the Spanish second division for Racing Santander. Fitness became an issue by the end of the match against Toronto.
“Out there I was OK,” Bocanegra said. “The last 20 minutes they were pumping us and my calves were starting to hurt a bit, but it's normal. I need a few games under my belt to be 90 minutes game fit.”
Chivas USA doesn't have another game until July 29, against the Seattle Sounders. That gives the team roughly a dozen days to savor its first win since March.
“Today is a special day,” Real said.
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