CARSON, Calif. Justin Braun's string of four straight starts came to a close for Chivas USA Saturday night, but it's still been a wild ride for the rookie from Salt Lake City.
Invited to training camp on a hunch by Chivas coach Preki, the Skyline High graduate has emerged as one of the top young players on the squad with 10 appearances and six starts prior to Saturday night's match against Real Salt Lake.
"It's been a crazy road for me. We've had some injuries, and Preki's been giving me some chances to see what I can go out and do," said Braun. "I've just been trying to work hard and do what I can to help the team out."
So far, that's been in the form of a goal and an assist as Chivas copes with a variety of injuries to forwards Ante Razov, Maykel Galindo and Alecko Eskandarian.
"Some of the games I've done pretty well," said Braun. "I've had my moments where I could've done better with some things. It's kind of a learning process for me."
On Saturday, Braun began the game on the bench as Chivas USA came out in a 4-3-3 starting Atiba Harris, Razov and Jonathan Bornstein up top. Braun eventually entered the game as a substitute at the start of the second half but missed two prime scoring opportunities.
As for Braun, with such an unlikely path to Major League Soccer and playing time being thrown at him almost instantly, he's trying to keep things in perspective. He says he's approaching things day by day in hopes of establishing himself for a long time, not just a flash in the pan."That's the goal right now, stay in here," he said. "A lot of people come in, and then they're right back out."
A NEW LOOK: RSL coach Jason Kreis tweaked his team's formation for Saturday's game at Chivas USA. Having utilized a 4-4-2 virtually the entire year, Kreis opted for a 4-5-1 formation to address the team's width problems in previous road games this year.
Kenny Deuchar, who was questionable with a toe injury, served as the team's lone striker up top with Robbie Findley and Matias Cordoba playing at the outside midfield spots.The only other time RSL has diverted from a 4-4-2 was when it came out in a 3-5-2 formation against FC Dallas on May 10.
HOME SWEET HOME: Whenever RSL makes a visit to Southern California, the club's team administrator is inundated with ticket requests.
Eight players on Salt Lake's roster were born in California, including Ian Joy, who moved to Scotland when he was 3. Two other RSL players, Nate Sturgis and Robbie Findley, began their MLS careers with the L.A. Galaxy.
Of Real's starting 11 on Saturday, only Nick Rimando and Tony Beltran had California ties. Both attended UCLA, with Beltran being raised in Claremont, Calif., and Rimando in Montclair, Calif.In addition to the player requests, the visitors were also represented well in the Home Depot Center stands as RSL's youth club, RSL Arizona, was in town participating in a tournament.
UNFRIENDLY FACE: Baldomero Toledo served as the fourth official for Saturday's match. He was the ref who awarded D.C. United two penalty kicks during D.C.'s 4-1 triumph over RSL on April 26.He's the same ref that Kreis was very critical of during his comments to the Deseret News a few weeks later as well. Given the comments, it's somewhat surprising that the league would have him as part of the officiating crew of an RSL match.