BRIDGEVIEW, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: What's Spanish for gut punch? (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Chivas USA lost 3-2 Saturday afternoon in a wild match. Within the first half hour, Chivas was down two goals when Cory Gibbs scored off a corner kick in the 2nd minute, and Juan Pablo Angel scored an own goal in the 25th minute. Even after Gibbs was given a red card for a late foul on Michael Lahoud in the 37th minute Chivas didn't look like they would get any traction in the match.
After more of the same in the second half, and after Chivas fans didn't think the Goats had a chance in hell, Chivas scored two goals in two minutes to even the score. First, Angel made up for the own goal with a nice swivel shot in the box in the 61st minute before Nick LaBrocca got on the end of a Zarek Valentin deflection and hit an excellent goal to the far corner in the 63rd minute. With that, the 20 minutes of solid possession really seemed to go Chivas' way, and it seemed they might actually prevail with a victory.
But Fire coach Frank Klopas made a couple of excellent tactical substitutions to give Chicago more offensive intensity, and the last 20 minutes of the match was wide open. And then Chicago had the dagger with a game-winning goal in the 86th minute. After a series of good passes by the Fire, Patrick Nyarko was able to stretch Chivas' defense on the wing before sending a perfect pass to Dominic Oduro, who got his 10th goal of the season on the effort. Dan Kennedy and the Chivas defense all hesitated on the play, assuming it was offside, but no call was given, and it was a gut-punch ending for the Goats.
With that, let's go over some of the talking points coming out of the match.
Pearce dearly missed again: I still believe that it would be foolish to rush Heath Pearce back from his hamstring injury, due to the tricky nature of those injuries. But for the sake of the team, I'm sure everybody is hoping he can be ready for Saturday's game against Toronto FC. Of course, unless Chivas win Wednesday against DC United, the Toronto game may not mean anything anyway, but for their pride, a return to the form they had most of the season is sorely needed. Somewhat puzzlingly, Robin Fraser opted to start Zarek Valentin at center back with Michael Umana ahead of Andrew Boyens, who has been collecting dust on the bench. I really don't know why Boyens continues to be overlooked. Sure, he's not the greatest defender, but I would have felt better starting him instead of Valentin, who was returning from a quad injury, playing out of position, and is a rookie. I think Valentin has done well this season, but Fraser obviously will not play Boyens, and I'm assuming he won't be returning next season.
Obviously, Pearce has been playing out of position for most of the season, too. If David Junior Lopes is given time next season to get used to MLS, I sincerely hope the team brings in another quality center back to go alongside Lopes. Pearce should be a full back, and the fact that he's done so well as a center back has been a lucky outcome for Chivas. But reinforcements are sorely needed next season to improve the team defense.
Mixed results for JPA: Obviously, own goals happen. And since he scored on the other end in the game, it evened out in the end. But for those who thought Juan Pablo Angel just needed to be liberated from the suffocating Galaxy system now know he is just way over the hill. He can still score some good goals, and with two goals for Chivas he's nearly equaled his Galaxy total, in only a fraction of the games. But he hasn't shown the quality to grab the game and control it for his team, like he used to with the New York Red Bulls. Above all, JPA can still provide moments of brilliance, but those moments are fewer and farther between at this point in his career.
The kitchen sink approach kinda worked: The desperation was on clear display in this match, as all of the forwards in the regular rotation started the match (JPA, Alejandro Moreno, Marcos Mondaini, and Justin Braun). With LaBrocca pushing up and Blair Gavin and Laurent Courtois subbing on, it was clear that the team needed a critical mass of players to get some offense going. They ended up scoring two goals, so in a sense it worked, but remember that they were up a man for more than 50 minutes, and they were playing Chicago. No disrespect to the Fire, who beat Chivas fair and square, but if it took 5-6 offensive players with a man advantage to score against a team below them in the standings, it still is not a good sign. The biggest hope is that the goals from JPA and LaBrocca have jumpstarted them and the team moving forward and that the offensive slump is over.
Looking ahead: Chivas have a quick turnaround with a match against DC United Wednesday. At this point, it is unclear if Chivas need time off or need to get back in the saddle as quickly as possible. Regardless, this is the point of no return for the Goats. They need to win all of their remaining matches to get in the playoffs. A loss or draw and they are out. Considering Chivas just lost to DC 3-0 a week ago, this will be a tough task, but their season is on the line, and they will be well aware. Let's see if they can finally end their losing streak Wednesday evening.
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