Through 81 minutes Saturday, Chivas USA was very much in their match against the Colorado Rapids, as they were down 1-0, a scoreline that is by no means insurmountable. But a brace by substitute Kamani Hill in the last 10 minutes of the match, as well as a penalty converted by Jeff Larentowicz, stretched the deficit to an emphatic 4-0 loss on the night for the Goats. I do think the scoreline flatters the Rapids a bit, but they scored the goals and Chivas very much did not. There are few reasons for optimism coming out of this performance, but as long as Chivas don't rack up lopsided losses, this result could ultimately be an aberration in its ugliness.
The first half was very much even, as stats and the eyeball test demonstrated a stalemate in a scoreless 45 minutes. In the second half, Colorado began to exert their quality on the match, as rookie Tony Cascio opened the scoring in the 50th minute with a well-taken goal off a corner. He chested the ball down at the far corner of the box, took a couple touches to get Ante Jazic off balance, and hit a blast to the far post. If Miller Bolanos was on the post, as it seemed he was supposed to be, he probably would have stopped the shot. The next half hour, Chivas kept pushing for an equalizer, and while they had good looks, they could not get the breakthrough.In the 82nd minute, Hill scored a very good goal on a patient play, as he took a low cross across the box from Omar Cummings, waited for Heath Pearce's sliding tackle to stop dead (it did), and calmly hit another sharp shot past Dan Kennedy. Just a minute later, Jazic put Chivas in even more trouble, as he pulled Larentowicz down around the shoulders in the box. Could it be argued that Larentowicz sold the contact? Sure, but Jazic was beaten and made a last-gasp maneuver to try and regain an advantage. Larentowicz scored an easy PK in the 83rd and the game was firmly decided. But the scoring wasn't done, as Rapids star Conor Casey returned to action after a long-term injury, hit a deflected shot in the 93rd, and Hill was in place to bury the rebound to get his second of the night.
Here are some talking points following the match:
Where's the scoring? Sure, 1-0 results are important in soccer, and good teams need to get narrow victories to be successful. But Chivas simply need to start scoring. They have four goals in eight matches this year, and are last in the league in that category at this point. Through eight games last year, when they had an equal number of points, they scored seven goals.And this group theoretically looks far more competent offensively than 2011s' but they have little to show for it. I know the defense had several blunders on the night, but it's easy to beat a team when they look incapable of scoring. And that's how Chivas looked tonight.
Chivas' wing play has been very good, as Miller Bolanos was dangerous yet again, Ryan Smith put in another solid performance in the second half, and Laurent Courtois had perhaps the best chance of the night for Chivas when his sharp volley in the first half forced a quick save from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Nick LaBrocca and Paolo Cardozo played the ball well into the final third. But there was no finishing on the night. I know Juan Pablo Angel is still rounding into game shape, but maybe, just maybe, Chivas need a couple of forwards playing together at the same time. Also, the midfielders and wingers are also allowed to score goals - maybe somebody should remind them in case they forgot. Their finishing tonight was as sharp as a dull crayon, while Colorado's finishing was as sharp as a butcher's knife. Chivas simply look far too hesitant to actually go for goal on a consistent basis, and that's a big problem. Passing is good, possession is good, solid crosses are good, but they mean nothing without goals. This is the biggest challenge Chivas have at this point in the season.
Defense didn't have a good night, though: Colorado knew the scouting report on Chivas' defense and exploited it beautifully. Chivas can deal with a single chance at a time, but when there are multiple players offering threats and providing decoys for each other, Chivas cannot figure out how to manage those threats. Often, multiple defenders close in on the first threat, and a simple pass to a waiting teammate leaves the second option open enough to rip an unstoppable shot. This certainly happened on the second and fourth goals of the night. For the second goal, Cummings drew defenders his way, and Hill had enough space to score rather easily, after Pearce's poor attempt at a tackle petered out. Bolanos and Jazic messed up in separate ways on Cascio's goal, and of course Jazic caused the penalty. On the fourth goal, Kennedy rushed to his left to deal with Brian Mullan coming into goal with the ball. Mullan beat McKenzie easily, and his shot went off Kennedy and onto the path of Casey. Casey's resulting shot was blocked in a desperation move by James Riley, but Hill was there to hit the final goal into an open net. Needless to say, it was keystone cops-style defending on all of the goals. The Goats' number one priority is to start scoring, but preventing defensive performances like this is a very close second.
Positives on the night: If it was a scoreless draw, I'd take it, and the defense would obviously deserve the plaudits. And while several players played pretty well for 70-80 minutes, I don't think this is a night for moral victories. This is a performance to shake off and work on immediate improvement, nothing more. If Chivas can move beyond this match and get back on track next week and beyond, then it's not going to matter a great deal in the long run. But Robin Fraser probably shouldn't stay the course at this point. I don't think there's reason for a nuclear option, but he needs to make some tweaks in personnel/tactics/playing style. This group has reason for optimism on the balance of the season, but they need to get back on track soon.
Looking ahead: Chivas host the Chicago Fire at the Home Depot Center next Friday. Both teams are coming off losses, so maybe Chivas can reverse tonight's result against Chicago? We'll have to see what they look like then.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!