WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Welcome back, Heath. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
A faint flicker of hope remains for Chivas USA this season, as they played DC United to a 2-2 draw Wednesday night. It was a game featuring much of the same, as well as a little progress that hearkens back to the high points in the season for the Goats. Above all, Chivas were able to claw their way back into the game and earn a point, something that seemed practically impossible in recent weeks.
The big problem in the game for Chivas was that they once again conceded two goals, but on the bright side, neither came in the first half hour of the game. In the 39th minute, a free kick outside of the box taken by Andy Najar was headed into net by Dwayne De Rosario, putting Chivas in yet another hole. Shortly after the restart, a Santino Quaranta corner kick went into the box and bounced around before Ethan White slotted it in for DC's second goal. It seemed like Chivas' season was totally done and dusted right there, but Juan Pablo Angel got a brace to get the Goats back into it.
Continued after the jumpFirst, he headed a Nick LaBrocca cross past Bill Hamid in the 57th minute, and then he took a cross from Ante Jazic down in the box, turned around and squared himself on goal, and scored in the 70th minute. That second goal in particular was impressive, and it showed some of the class that many feared he no longer had. Angel now has four goals on the season for Chivas, surpassing his season total with the Galaxy in less than a third of the games played.
The main event coming out of the match came in second half injury time, when Dwayne De Rosario earned a penalty from a push in the back in the box by Angel. The replay, however, showed the call was dubious, as Angel touched De Rosario very lightly and De Rosario launched himself to the turf to embellish the call. The karma gods, however, were smiling on Chivas, as the subsequent penalty kick, taken by De Rosario, was weakly taken and Dan Kennedy was able to save it somewhat easily. As a result, Chivas escaped with a 2-2 draw, and were fortunate that they weren't jobbed out of that point.
With that, let's discuss some of the talking points coming out of the match:
Welcome back Heath: It was a little surprising, but Heath Pearce returned to the lineup and played a full 90 minutes Wednesday. Despite letting in two goals, I do think Pearce's influence was clear on this game. The team held onto possession better overall, the defense did not get the jitters when DC was in their third, and Chivas were able to hang onto the draw, something they could not do last Saturday against Chicago. Pearce had an early flub, when he got tangled up with De Rosario near goal and was either pushed or fell off at a tight angle on goal in the box, but fortunately Kennedy got the stop on De Rosario's shot. Besides that, he seemed to have a decent game that was a big boost for the team, and does not look to have aggravated his hamstring injury. If he feels good, I assume he'll be back on Saturday against Toronto FC.
Despite the improved performance with the addition of Pearce, Chivas gave up two goals on set pieces. This has been a recent problem, and is only highlighted in this match. Playoff-caliber teams cannot be vulnerable to set piece goals, as the tight nature of most playoff matchups means set pieces are all the more important. Clearly, if nothing else, this is something that Chivas need to work on for next season. They have some size, but more importantly, the Goats have often done a poor job man-marking on set pieces, and that was an issue here against DC.
Is DK's mojo back? Dan Kennedy has had an exceptional season, and has rarely gotten the plaudits he deserves. I was worried he would be buried under the poor defensive performances of his defense the last five games. Now, he let the goals in, so I guess you could say he was partially at fault, but I can't recall a single goal allowed where Kennedy was directly responsible. There came a moment towards the end of the match when Kennedy shrunk back into his net when a cross went towards goal and I was afraid that he had lost all confidence as there were about 15 players between him and the ball. But I think he made several key saves in the run of play and the PK save was huge, not only for the game but also for his confidence moving forward. Kennedy has saved two penalties on the season, and both have helped Chivas earn a point. Let's hope with Pearce's return and Kennedy's strong second half against DC he will have his swagger fully back.
JPA Gets the Job Done: Like the rest of the attackers, JPA has had a rough month, especially in the last game against Chicago. But he returned to the form of his first match with Chivas, when he scored a sweet goal against the Colorado Rapids. Against DC, he played well, especially in the second half, and played as the target forward Chivas have desperately needed this season. I was also impressed with the assists in this match, coming from Nick LaBrocca and Ante Jazic. I'm not sure if it was a coincidence or planned, but both assists came on crosses that were farther back in the midfield, each about 50-60 degrees from the near post. It was a striking position to cross the ball from, and with a target man, those passes are feasible, but I think the location may have been surprising to DC's defenders, and perhaps that's why Angel was able to get the ball in the box twice and convert on both chances.
Looking ahead: Chivas have a quick turnaround and will face Toronto FC at home on Saturday. Chivas have the slimmest of hopes, and will likely have the best chances to win again this season in this match. For all the struggles Toronto have had, both this year and in their short history, they have been playing pretty well lately, especially after the additions of designated players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans. Can Chivas make the step up and get that elusive 8th victory on the season? We'll find out Saturday.
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