This was one of those nights where, in the end, the buts didn’t matter at least to the Wizards.
It didn’t matter that the opponent was playing without more than half its usual starting lineup or head coach. It didn’t matter the Wizards, who scored three goals for just the third time this season, ended up needing every one of them.
What mattered was that the Wizards put together one of their best attacking performances of the season and beat Chivas USA 3-2 in front of an announced 9,597 Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
What mattered was that the Wizards collected three points in the standings for a victory on their home field and improved to 6-6-7 with 25 points, tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
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What mattered was that a team that has struggled to score goals most of the season found the net three times, and the Wizards controlled a game — for most of the way, anyway — that could springboard them through the final third of the regular season and into playoff position.
The first half was loaded was action from end to end for much of the 45-plus minutes.
It started just about one minute in when the Wizards’ Michael Harrington found himself with the ball in space about 20 yards to the right of the Chivas goal. He fired a hard cross across the mouth of the goal, but Josh Wolff couldn’t quite reach it.
The biggest flurry from both sides came in the fourth and fifth minutes. Chivas, which was playing without suspended head coach Preki and several front-liners such as Claudio Suarez and Ante Razov, struck first when Roberto Nurse got off a shot from in close on the left side of the Wizards’ goal that was blocked by defender Matt Marquess. On the ensuing corner kick, Jim Curtin got his foot on a shot near the far, right post that goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was just able to tip over the crossbar.
At the other end a minute later, three separate Wizards — Sasha Victorine, Davy Arnaud and Harrington — all got off shots that were either deflected, saved by keeper Zach Thornton, or floated just high of the bar.
Finally, in the 22nd minute, the Wizards connected.
Marquess sent a long ball over the top that found the foot of Claudio Lopez about 17 yards out from the goal on the right side. Lopez used his left foot to hook a pass to the head of an open Victorine, who buried the header past Thornton for his first goal since Aug. 22 of last year.
The Wizards doubled their advantage just a minute before halftime. Kerry Zavagnin found Arnaud in space on the right flank. Arnaud quickly dribbled behind the Chivas defense and could’ve taken a good shot himself. Instead, he found Lopez streaking through the middle of the box, and Lopez buried the shot for his fourth goal of the season.
Chivas’ only other decent chance of the half came in the 45th minute when Justin Braun fired a shot from the top of the box that slid outside the left post by inches.
The Wizards blew the game wide open in the 58th minute when Arnaud beat Thornton to a long ball sent up by Aaron Hohlbein and chipped a shot that just made it over the goal line.
Chivas got on the scoreboard in the 73rd minute on a penalty kick by former Wizard Carey Talley that came about when Hartman brought down the Goats’ Atiba Harris on the left side of the box.
Talley also figured in Chivas’ second goal, firing a corner kick in the 82nd minute that found the head of Braun, who scored to narrow the gap to a goal.