Chivas USA finished up their road trip on a sour note, losing 1-0 to the Portland Timbers Wednesday night. Despite getting into the game the last 35 minutes and chasing for an equalizer, the Goats could not repeat the resilient performance against the Colorado Rapids last weekend. As a result, their playoff hopes take a real hit, and while it is still a possibility, with eight games remaining in the season, there are few games remaining where Chivas can afford to lose.
A goal in the 44th minute from Timbers defender Eric Brunner, his third on the season, made the difference in this match. Brunner got on the end of a corner kick and headed it past Dan Kennedy in the box. It capped off another poor half for Chivas, and combined with their inability to get the crucial goal in the second half, made for a very frustrating night all around.
Bless you, Dan Kennedy, Part 274: Wow, another huge night from Kennedy. Honestly, if an average keeper were between the posts for Chivas, the Goats would have been down 3-0 or 4-0 at halftime. The defense was awful again, and Kennedy kept the team in the match in spite of his defense. The good news from this game is that a wider audience of committed MLS fans caught Kennedy in all his glory, so maybe the word will spread about his phenomenal season. The bad news is that the rest of the team played bad, so the rest of the league thinks Chivas play like a rotten egg. On balance, I'm not sure which impression will be stronger among fans around the league. But Kennedy is the man, yet again. Say it with me now: Chivas are lucky to have Dan Kennedy.
Mitigating factors? I don't want to make a bunch of excuses for Chivas, but I think there may have been some unlucky breaks on the night. Most notably, the first half injuries to Michael Lahoud and Paulo Nagamura were obviously unexpected and prevented Chivas from making much-needed subs in the second half. Lahoud's injury was particularly costly as his replacement Mariano Trujillo had a difficult night (although Lahoud may have had a tough night as well, who knows?). In contrast, Simon Elliott really helped to settle the Chivas midfield after he came on and made some really important defensive clearances, which is usually a tricky proposition for him. Still, I don't know if Elliott can be ready for Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake, as he may not be able to play three games in seven days (he's really old).
Here's the other excuse/mitigating factor I think was significant on the night: the field. It was Chivas' first time on the field, an artificial turf, and I honestly think it made a big difference. Portland's team is faster, but Chivas were so bad in their passing that I think they could not account for the different feel of the pitch. Pass after pass went 5 to 10 yards farther than players were expecting, while the Timbers had the passes judged perfectly. And lest you think I'm whining for Chivas only because they lost, I've seen a similar effect when other teams visited Jeld-Wen Field. But Chivas took forever to get their act together on that front, and it cost them dearly.
Stay tuned for more observations tomorrow...
In the meantime, what did you think of the game? Are Chivas in big trouble? Or was this just a blip? Leave a comment below!