Both teams cobbled together lineups, but the Colorado Rapids continued to assert their 2012 dominance over Chivas USA with a 2-0 win at the Home Depot Center Saturday. First half goals by Martín Rivero and Kamani Hill made the difference for the Rapids, while the Goats finished the home schedule with an abysmal 3-11-3 record.
One of the interesting components of the match was that both teams featured backup goalkeepers. Tim Melia made his first career MLS start for Chivas, and his first appearance in all competitions since June 26, while Steward Ceus made his first career MLS start for the Rapids. Was their presence significant on the night compared to the regular starters? We'll discuss that below in the talking points.
The scoring started early, as usual. Melia bobbled a catch on a scramble in the box, but the Chivas' defense eventually cleared the initial chance, but Colorado regained possession, and Rivero took a close range shot that beat Melia in the 16th minute. Unquestionably, it was deflating, and while Chivas hustled like they do, they still couldn't actually play well. Colorado padded their lead in the 43rd minute when Shalrie Joseph sent a back pass that was a little off the mark to John Valencia, who didn't really hustle over to take it. Omar Cummings instead nabbed the pass, sent a terrific cross into the box, and Hill headed a bouncing shot past Melia. Both sides had half chances, but besides a header by Juan Agudelo that was just wide of the post a few minutes into the second half, Chivas had basically no dangerous chances on the night.
With that, let's discuss the talking points:
Should we second-guess Melia? I feel kind of bad bringing this up, but it is still a worthwhile question. Dan Kennedy was listed on the injury report, but his status was "probable," and it was unclear if he was too hurt to go or if they were holding him out as a precaution and to give Melia a shot. Melia made four saves and allowed two goals, so his save rate was 67 percent. Is that great? It isn't stellar, but it is also not really fair with such a small sample size. And it must be said that Melia and Ceus both looked shaky at times, as they both bobbled and dropped balls that starters normally hold onto. The difference was that Colorado did enough to score a couple of goals, and Chivas basically gave Ceus no test.
Would the scoreline have been different if Kennedy was starting instead? Well, he wouldn't have helped the Chivas tally, but my inclination is to say that he probably would have been able to save at least one of those, if not both. But it is a moot point, really. Melia wasn't really at fault for either goal, and there wasn't a lot to do with such an awful attack again. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod next week in the season finale.
Should we second-guess the attacking lineup? Alejandro Moreno and Juan Agudelo started the match, and they took turns playing up top. I have to say I was pretty disappointed with Agudelo's performance. I can certainly understand his frustration over the course of the season, as he never gets consistent service from his teammates, but he looked tired (which is strange considering the team didn't play a match for a couple weeks and he's a teenager) and his body language looked bad as the second half wore on. I saw a few occasions where he was playing up top, and he didn't even finish a run, as he assumed he wouldn't get a ball his way. To be fair, his instinct was right and he didn't get the right passes, but it isn't a good sign to see a player quit without trying.
And Moreno...yeesh. He drew four fouls, but the time when he played as striker up top was farcical. As his teammates would send speculative long balls towards goal, he would hustle to latch onto them and would look like he was running through quicksand as Colorado's defenders reached them easily. It wasn't a brilliant strategy.
Nick LaBrocca played as a box-to-box midfielder in this game, and he looked pretty good, but he and Peter Vagenas both got really fond of the backheel flick in midfield. Once or twice, this was a nifty trick, but it got old (and ineffective) fast. Jorge Villafana couldn't replicate his performance in the last match, even though he played as a midfielder for most of the game. All in all, the attack looked weak, and it performed like a weak unit.
The AARP lineup: Chivas USA started a lineup tonight with the combined age of 315. The average age of the starters was 28.63. Colorado's starters' combined age was 297, for an average of 27. Chivas started five players over the age of 30, while Colorado started one, Cummings, who is 30. Both teams are near the bottom of the standings. Which team has more potential moving forward?
I could be really cynical, but several of these choices struck me as nods to the old guys to get one last match in front of the home fans. That could also be wishful thinking, realistically, and despite his age I wouldn't mind seeing Ante Jazic come back next year, but starting Moreno, Vagenas and Joseph through the spine of the team? I have no words. Seriously, why not throw Marky Delgado and/or Marvin Iraheta (who looks like he won't play a minute in a competitive match in 2012) out there and see how they look? Would you rather lose in the same old way with the same old players, or give the youngsters some experience and see if any of them could make a difference?
Atmosphere was still cheerful: I must end on this note. Yeah, the product on the field was poor, but the atmosphere in the stands was quite a bit different tonight. The staff was relaxed, the fans who were there were clearly "thick or thin" folks, there were a lot of kids, and everybody really seemed determined to have a good time, win, lose, or draw. I've talked to several people who regularly attend both Chivas and Galaxy games, and all of them have told me they like the vibe of Chivas games better. Of course, they could be just saying that, but there's something to be said for the support that this team has. The Supporters Groups, the families, the AYSO teams, the buddies heading out for a night of sports and drinking, the people there every game, the people there for the first time, "Chiva Darrell" - everybody has contributed to the effort this year. There's a community here in Chivatown, no matter what the ignorant people out there say. You've stuck through the good times and the bad this year, and there's been plenty of both, and you should all be proud you support such a club as Chivas USA.
Looking ahead: Chivas finish the season next week on the road at FC Dallas. Will they finish on any kind of high note? Stay tuned...
What do you think? Leave a comment below!