KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 9: Dan Kennedy #1 of Chivas USA leaps up to make a save against Sporting Kansas City on July 9, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
Chivas USA headed to Kansas City on Saturday looking to continue their recent good run of form. They accomplished that somewhat, as they tied Sporting Kansas City 1-1. But the score does not tell the story of the game. Chivas were ahead on Nick LaBrocca's 30th minute goal, and nearly held on for a full three points. But Omar Bravo's injury time goal dramatically leveled the score and preserved KC's home unbeaten streak. While the result feels like a gut punch for Chivas fans, who were seconds away from another victory, the reality is that the Goats were under siege for much of the game, and if it wasn't for Dan Kennedy's remarkable night, they wouldn't have held the lead for so long. As painful as it may seem, Chivas probably deserved the draw. Let's look at some of the talking points coming out of the match.
LaBrocca is on a roll: LaBrocca scored his sixth goal of the season, and was his third game in a row with a goal. When he was scoring earlier this season, it was a nice bonus to good form. But 'Nick the Quick' has really elevated his game recently, and it is not coincidental that Chivas have also improved in the last three games. Obviously, he is not solely responsible for this week's five points, but he really seems to be the catalyst for Chivas' success. Oh, and LaBrocca's goal tonight was the 10,000 in MLS history. Congrats on that milestone.Remember, Valentin is a rookie: Some will blame Zarek Valentin for his awkward attempt at a clearance in the box that looped into the air for Bravo to nod into the net. While it is disappointing to see a mistake like that, I think that is one of those unfortunate mistakes. Remember when Heath Pearce scored an own goal against Houston earlier this season on an instinctive reflex to the ball coming his way? I don't think Valentin's kick was as unlucky, but it was in the ballpark. If Valentin makes mistakes like this frequently, then there is a problem, but he has been really good this season, and has made very few mistakes. He should be cut a little slack for it being his first professional season. I'm confident Valentin can learn from this and continue his progress as an MLS defender.
What a night for Kennedy: If there's anyone who deserved a win for Chivas, it was Kennedy. He made six saves on the night, which represents a very busy night by league standards, and a few of them were really remarkable. The defense played decent, but they would have been behind if it wasn't for Kennedy. Sporting Kansas City controlled the game, spent a lot of time in the second half in Chivas' half, and peppered the Goats with shots. I think this game was another showcase that Kennedy is an underrated keeper, and there was nothing he could have done to stop Bravo's goal, as no goalkeeper anticipates a clearance looping lazily towards the far post. He didn't get the clean sheet, he didn't get the all-star nod, but Kennedy is having an outstanding season, and was Chivas' man of the match.
Umana in, Boyens out: It seems Michael Umana has become a first-choice center back for Robin Fraser, much to the chagrin of some Chivas fans. Despite being a below-average defender for the Goats on a points per start basis as of July 4, he has moved up the depth chart over Andrew Boyens, and has started the last eight games. He hasn't made any egregious mistakes since failing to stop Dominic Oduro from scoring in the Chicago game, and I don't recall Boyens really messing anything up in recent weeks. But if Chivas continue to rack up points, Umana's struggles will be forgiven by Chivas fans. In the same vein, despite gifting Dallas the game-winning goal a few weeks back, Michael Lahoud has been playing well since then and seems like he may even be preferred when Ante Jazic recovers from his calf injury.
Random thought: Does anybody think Omar Bravo feels weird scoring against a team named Chivas? Evidently not, as it was his third against the American Chivas this season. And he's only scored 4 total MLS goals on the year.
Looking ahead: Chivas will be hosting New York Red Bulls next Saturday. NYRB will be hungry after Chivas beat them 3-2 on Justin Braun's hat trick earlier this season, but they continue to be inconsistent. Unless they get a new goalkeeper in the next seven days, Chivas will have to think they have a decent chance.