With Chivas flags waving and vuvuzelas blaring at Justin-Siena’s Dodd Stadium on Sunday afternoon, one could have easily have thought they were at a Chivas home match in Guadalajara, Mexico.
A packed house of avid soccer fans, many wearing Chivas jerseys and jackets, were treated to some first-class soccer by both teams as the touring Chivas’ under-20 team prevailed 1-0 over Napa Valley 1839 FC.
The friendly wasn’t decided until the 72nd minute, when Chivas midfielder Juan Perez snuck a shot past 1839 FC goalie Robert Doeland for the only goal of the match.
“There was nothing our keeper could do on that goal,” said Napa Valley head coach Rogelio Ochoa. “It was a really good cross and they beat us to it.”
Doeland was under attack for virtually the entire match, but made many spectacular saves to keep 1839 FC in the game.
“Overall, I’m happy with my performance,” Doeland said. “We’ve grown a lot as a team and our chemistry is wonderful right now. I have to give our defenders big compliments today for their efforts. A lot of times the goalkeeper gets all the credit.”
Ochoa said he was happy with the hosts’ performance.
“I thought overall we played them pretty even,” he said. “We hit the post twice today, once in each half. If either of those go in, we’re up 1-0.”
A first-half shot by 1839 FC’s Salvador Gomez was nudged just wide by Chivas goalie Jose Rangel. But Napa Valley’s best opportunity came midway through the second half, when Rangel ventured well outside his box and whiffed on an attempted clearance. The ball trickled to the right foot of Napa forward Max Alvarez, whose 25-yard shot at an open goal unfortunately hit the crossbar and kept the score at 0-0.
Napa Valley had two other great scoring opportunities near the end of the match. Rangel had to make a diving save of a shot by substitute Sebastian Herrera, and that was followed by a left-footed blast by Alvarez that sailed just over the bar.
“It was a very exciting game and the fans really got into it. There were a lot of chances both ways,” said Ochoa. “Even though the score didn’t go our way, it definitely could have. Their talent made us have to play better. That’s why these exhibition games are really important to us.”
It was clear from the beginning that Chivas’ talented under-20 squad brought a level of soccer not often seen in Napa.
“When you see these types of players, you can tell they train every day,” Ochoa noted. “Their touch is spotless and you can tell they work on that a lot. Their movement off the ball is great and you’ve got to work hard to keep track of them, and they can pass that ball 40-45 yards on the dot.”
Added Doeland, “The Chivas players are very talented players and they’re in great shape, so it was difficult for us to keep up with them. It was amazing we could hold them for as long as we did.”
Chivas, whose formal name is actually Club Deportivo Guadalajara, is considered by many to be the most popular soccer team in Mexico – hence the large crowd at Sunday’s match. To their credit, the Chivas players stayed long after the match to sign autographs and chat with their many fans.
“My family are Chivas fans as well,” chuckled Ochoa.
“We owe them a huge thank you for coming to Napa and showing us what top soccer is all about,” added Doeland. “It was a blast having so many fans here today. We really put our heart and soul into the match for them.”