History was made tonight!
Wait, what? Oh, the history was not in Chivas' favor? Imagine that!
The visiting Vancouver Whitecaps got their first-ever MLS road victory Saturday evening, as they defeated Chivas USA 1-0. The scoreline doesn't make Chivas look too bad, and streaks like that have to end at some point, but it is pretty disappointing to see history like that being made at the hands of Chivas. The goal came in the 67th minute when U.S. international Jay DeMerit made a diving header off a corner kick and that was all she wrote. That, combined with Chivas not-bad-but-not-nearly-good-enough play on the field, and the complete pile on by non-Chivas fans on twitter, where they not only made fun of Chivas on the field, but also the existence of the club, the existence of you, and even the existence of your Mom (ok, I made a couple of those up), means I am in a sour mood to write this report. I could take a deep breath, think it over, and provide more-measured opinions later. But whatever, I have all week to pour over the performance - I might as well give my initial impressions while they are white-hot.
What are the talking points coming out of this match?"Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure" My sixth-grade teacher used to say this to his pupils all the time. Literally speaking, it is nonsensical. But if you don't give it a sharp look, it sounds deep and stuff.
The point is this: Chivas have several solid excuses for tonight's performance. Depending on what lineup Robin Fraser settles on this season, they were missing somewhere between three and five starters tonight. Most notably, Juan Pablo Angel was out, and that left Casey Townsend to lead the line in his first career start. Yeah, that's right: the defense is so shaky that it truly was a good idea to play a rookie alone up top in an effort to keep the opponent from scoring at will.
Another valid excuse: six of tonight's starting eleven are new to the squad this season, and two of the three subs in the match were new. That's a whole lot of new. It takes time for a team to gel, and this club was in an identical position last season, before bouncing back from absolutely dreadful to so-so. The season's long, and two games does not indicate the final product.
Another sort-of valid excuse: unsurprisingly, haters piled on Chivas for drawing so few fans to the match. It was announced at about 7,700, or about half of last week's announced attendance, so it looks bad. But the weather unquestionably kept a bunch of people out. I know, it sounds so weak, and on some level it is. But the reality is that people in Southern Calfornia are not going to come out in large numbers in crappy weather. The exception? If the team is winning, but that didn't happen, did it?
Despite these excuses, the team simply must do better. You can't prevent rain, but if the team is good, people will still come. It is hard to get players on the same page from the first game, but an apathetic attitude cannot stand. There must be more fight, more skill, more money around these parts.
Set piece woes return: Shortly before Vancouver's goal, they had their first corner kick of the night. I held my breath, as the size of the Whitecaps could be very difficult for Chivas to deal with on a set piece near goal. To my absolute surprise, they took a short corner, and Chivas dealt with it without incident. But the first regular corner they faced? Goal. Heath Pearce failed to mark DeMerit and was left holding his head after the goal. Players make mistakes and all, but Pearce is supposed to be the leader of the backline. I fear his head's not in it, and I hope he proves me wrong.
Smith and Townsend played well: In their first career starts for Chivas, Townsend and Ryan Smith played well. No, they did not score, but I thought Chivas played well overall in the first half and Vancouver goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Brad Knighton had to make several important saves. In fact, Chivas had more shots overall than the Whitecaps and bested them in all of the major important statistical categories than the most important one, goals. I saw promising signs in the attack tonight, and thought it was considerably better than last week. But there's still a long way to go.
As I said, two games do not make a season. There were again promising signs to take from this performance. But this team needs actual victories, not moral victories.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!