for this game

Chivas clinches playoff berth

Oct 11, 2009 - 5:59 AM By JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO STATS MLS Correspondent

CARSON, Calif. (STATS) - Neither injuries nor a poor start could keep Chivas USA from clinching a playoff berth and taking a share of first place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.

Justin Braun and Sacha Kljestan scored in a 3-minute span late in the second half to lead Chivas USA to a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night.

Chivas USA (13-9-5), which has 44 points and qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight year, moved into a three-way for first place in the Western Conference with Houston and Los Angeles. Chivas has one match in hand on both the Dynamo and Galaxy, and has three matches remaining.

Goalkeeper Zach Thornton made two saves for his MLS-leading 12th shutout and moved within one of the single-season club record set by Brad Guzan in 2007.

"I don't think we were sharp in the first half," said Chivas USA coach Preki, who was without eight players due to injury. "We were slow and sluggish.

"We tried to warn the guys all week that this is not going to be an easy game. But we could tell from the first moments that we really were not up for it."

Chivas used more defensive pressure to take control in the second half.

"The second half was a way better performance for us," Preki said. "When we pressed them in their half (of the field), we pressed them with a lot more commitment. Our starting point with the ball was already closer to the goal."

Interim Wizards coach Peter Vermes agreed Chivas improved its play in the second half.

"I would say for 65 minutes, we were pretty good," Vermes said. "But physically, from a fitness perspective, we died out in the 65th minute and they started taking a lot of the play."

Braun, out most of the season with a concussion, scored his first goal since May 2 in the 71st minute.

Kljestan began the sequence with a 32-yard free kick that goalkeeper Kevin Hartman deflected across his body with his right hand.

Yamith Cuesta recovered the ball on the right side of the penalty area and passed to Braun, who scored from four yards.

Kljestan added his fifth goal in the 74th minute. Eduardo Lillingston secured Mariano Trujillo's long ball along the right flank and crossed to Kljestan, who dribbled past three defenders before converting from seven yards.

"We let Sacha skate right into the 18 (-yard penalty area) and pull the trigger," Hartman said. "At this point, with our season on the line, you'd expect everybody to be flying in and do whatever they can to make sure they extend that hope, that dream of making the playoffs."

The Wizards (8-12-8) had their best chance to score in the 57th minute, but Claudio Lopez's 30-yard shot hit the crossbar.

Chivas USA's Claudio Suarez made his first MLS start this season and played the first 45 minutes. Suarez played in just nine games in all competitions due to a strained right calf.

The Wizards' Jimmy Conrad and Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein, both defenders, represented the United States in a World Cup qualifier in Honduras.