PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 24: Can Chivas take care of Portland Saturday and move forward in their development? (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Although it might not be healthy to look back too closely, the 2011 season was ultimately pretty tough for Chivas USA. They had a rough start (not unlike this season), they played well through the middle months and looked to be in contention for the playoffs, and then they slumped badly in the last couple months to finish near the bottom of the standings. If there was a turning point in the season, from believing a team really could control its destiny to believing a team was incapable of success, I would argue it came August 24, 2011, when Chivas lost 1-0 to the Portland Timbers in a midweek match. Although they missed the playoffs by more than three points, I think it was the beginning of the end, the point when Chivas lost their mojo once and for all in 2011 and couldn't prove the critics wrong.
The match was a close affair, as an Eric Brunner goal just before halftime was the difference. But there were several problems overall in the match for the Goats. Although they only let in a single goal, Dan Kennedy was absolutely peppered in goal and had perhaps his best performance in an exceptional season in that match. The defense looked bad overall and didn't do Kennedy many favors. Two players came out of the game injured, Michael Lahoud and Paulo Nagamura, and while that was bad luck, it led to a sense of disruption for the rest of the match. The offense couldn't click, and even Justin Braun's desperation attempt at the end of the match missed the mark.So why bring up a disaster of a match between two clubs that looked like they were at the same level heading into it, and then looked very different in quality afterwards? Why remind ourselves of the failure of the 2011 vintage Goats, with a bunch of guys who are no longer on the team, when we can remind ourselves of the poor record for the 2012 vintage?
I think maybe, just maybe, Saturday's match, the first competitive match at Jeld-Wen Field since the loss last August, could be a great opportunity for the 2012 Chivas to exorcise the demons of 2011 from the squad. I'm not saying this is a must-win match, and I don't think these teams are that different in quality (although I'm sure many would disagree), but if Chivas could get a result on that field, with it's vaunted crowd and unique field, then it could help the team move on from last year's failures and try to win on a regular basis.
Don't get me wrong: I don't think the current Chivas team will be thinking about this whatsoever, and if I had any power to put pressure on them, I am not attempting to do that. But while there are stark differences between great, mediocre, and bad teams, there are finer differences between maybe-an-outside-shot-if-a-lot-of-things-go-our-way team and a team that is comfortably in the playoff mix. Chivas are not ready to consider themselves contenders - even the most ardent fan knows that. But this is the season that Chivas can start re-establishing credibility, and beating teams in a similar position on the road in April is a good way to demonstrate their improvement, and get to the clear goal for the season, making the playoffs. If Chivas lose Saturday, the season isn't over, but those demons will continue to haunt Chivas for the foreseeable future.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!