Chivas USA hit the middle of their five game road trip Saturday when they traveled up to Washington to face the Seattle Sounders. They emerged with a point, which may be vital come the end of the season. The scoreless draw was not one of the most entertaining matches this season, but there was still a lot of action in spite of the lack of goals. Above all, this was the second week in a row that Chivas played rather poorly but still got a result. Last week, they got the victory against the New England Revolution, but New England is a less-talented team and it was rather concerning. This time around, it is safe to say that the Sounders are a more-talented team than Chivas, so it is not a surprise that Chivas played rather poorly. It is, however, encouraging that they stuck with the game even when they couldn't seem to put a foot right and had some luck turn in their favor to earn them a point.
Below, some of the talking points coming out of the match:
Another rough performance for the backline: To be fair, Seattle put an awful lot of pressure on Chivas' defense, and nobody made a mistake so grave that it resulted in a goal. But the defense needs some work, and hopefully Robin Fraser's experience as a defender in the league can help his corps keep their composure without it impacting results. On the penalty call, a handball in the box by Michael Umana, I think it did seem a bit harsh considering it looked incidental. However, I think a good case could be made that immediately preceding that call, Zarek Valentin was essentially riding the Sounders player in the box with the ball, with his arms around the shoulders of the Sounder. Had that player gone down from the contact, a penalty would have been warranted, certainly more warranted than the one against Heath Pearce last week against New England. But credit to the Seattle player for staying on his feet and trying for a goal in the run of play, which ended up in a penalty anyway. All of this is to say I think the penalty was a wash between the two plays, and since a goal didn't result all the better. And as for the controversial call at the end, when David Junior Lopes collided with Lamar Neagle in the box and no penalty was called, yeah, the Goats got lucky on that one. I don't think it was a clear-from-outer-space kind of penalty, but it probably was a penalty 7 or 8 times out of 10. Perhaps the referee was giving Lopes the benefit of the doubt for just getting on the field the first time in the league (kidding on that). In short, I can see why Seattle was upset at that non-call at the end, but I also think that they really didn't take advantage of a shaky defense in the run of play that was there for the taking.
Counters are the new possession: Chivas had great difficulty hanging onto the ball for long periods in this match and favored a counterattack when they did have an opportunity. The same was true generally of Seattle, although they held onto the ball somewhat better. In a way, this is not surprising, because it is very easy to charge up and down the field when the opponent is doing the same. But this is the second week in a row that the Goats have used a counterattacking style, and while I'm not sure if the team has the personnel for it in the end, I think it is a good idea to have a couple of styles for different opponents, either to catch opposing defenses off guard, or to tailor the approach to the opponent's style.
Keeping pace: The prize for this season is the playoffs, and Chivas are still in the position they need to be. They currently sit on 30 points, and depending on the format (where games in hand account for a higher or lower position) they sit in 9th or 10th place, or pole position for getting in. They are maintaining the proper pace for making the postseason, and getting 4 points in the first three games of this road trip is a good sign for their ultimate playoff push.
Looking ahead: Chivas go to the Rockies and visit the Colorado Rapids next Saturday. After struggling several weeks back, the Rapids have kicked into form, and have won four of their last five matches. They're currently in 4th place in the overall table, and will represent another big test for Chivas. Will the Goats get another result from another team sitting higher up the standings? We'll find out next week.