If you missed it, Chivas USA lost 2-1 last night to the Chicago Fire after a goal deep in second half injury time by Marco Pappa. The result was frustrating, and opinions are surely mixed as to whether Chivas deserve the result or not. In the most literal sense, it seemed they deserved a draw, and would be picking up their first point at home for the season. But did they truly play well? No, not really. We've gone from a frustrating run to start the 2012 season, to flying high after winning three games in four matches, and back to the depths after hitting a three-match losing streak. Nobody said it would be easy, but it seems like deja vu of the last couple seasons.
With that, I'm going to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly coming out of this match:
Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy: DK deserved at least a point with his performance. He was also probably the only player who truly played an outstanding match. The good news is that the "Kennedy for USMNT" chorus is growing on a weekly basis among non-Chivas fans, but it is going to be hard to call up a player who has a losing record, however much he may deserve it. But he played fantastic in goal, and without his play Chicago probably would have won 3-1 or 4-1. He had several excellent saves, but none were better than his double save in the 62nd minute, when he blocked a strong shot by Sebastian Grazzini, and Dominic Oduro was in position for the resulting tap-in, but Kennedy saved that one as well. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a Save of the Week nomination, but it's kind of an empty honor without the point. Based on his comments after the match, it seems like Kennedy would agree.
Chivas finally scored at home: They went 382 minutes without a goal at home this season, until Juan Pablo Angel got off the mark in the 23rd minute. It's good to break that streak.
Chivas finally drew and scored a penalty: Chivas went 636 days without a penalty kick attempt. Alejandro Moreno finally took his best skill, drawing fouls, and got rookie Austin Berry to foul him in the box. JPA stepped up and hit it into the low corner. Let's hope they don't go such a long time before their next penalty.
Defensive lapses: It is hard to win in MLS when an opponent scores two goals, but Chivas' lethargic attack puts a remarkable amount of stress on the defense to be perfect game after game. Considering Chicago outplayed Chivas on the night, the defense did pretty well overall, and their strong defending on Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko means they were successful at neutralizing the most serious threats. But they couldn't shut down Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa and Austin Berry in the same way. Both Chicago goals were complete lapses by Chivas' defense - Berry's chance right in front of goal without being properly marked brings back bad memories of Andre Hainault's goal in the season opener against Houston, and not coincidentally, both Berry and Hainault are defenders. And with the quick response by Chicago on Berry's goal, it helped cancel out the deficit and stop Chivas' momentum after finally scoring at home. Meanwhile, on Pappa's winner, he had plenty of space to shoot, as Rauwshan McKenzie and John Valencia failed to close in on him, despite the fact that he's known for his long bombs. The defense assumed Pappa would pass the ball in that position, but of course they should have been aware of his ability to score from there.
Newcomers had a mixed impact: Michael Lahoud played about 10 minutes in his season debut, and he couldn't make much of an impact in that time. Jose Correa played about 20 minutes in his MLS debut, but by that point in the match, the service to the forwards was nonexistent. Jorge Villafana made his first appearance of the season in the start, but his performance was kind of "meh." And John Valencia got the biggest debut of the night, as he made his MLS debut and played the entire match at center back, with Heath Pearce moved over to left back.
A tough loss probably makes the debut look worse, but I think Valencia played pretty well, all things considered. He was thrown right into the deep end, and I think he showed signs of promise. In particular, in the 19th minute, Dominic Oduro took the ball right off his foot in Chivas' half, but Valencia ran back and put a perfect tackle on Oduro in Chivas' box. He also made a couple of essential clearances, and battled well with Oduro all night. We'll need to see more of him to know for sure, but considering the responsibility he had, Valencia did well.
JPA might be injured: He came off with a suspected head injury after bumping heads with Gonzalo Segares. We'll have to see what unfolds during the week, but we are moving into ugly territory fast.
The attack is painful to watch: Chivas suffer from a tendency to tighten up the closer they get to goal. In their own half, they comfortably pass the ball and look strong. Moving through the middle third of the field, they tend to hold onto possession and show signs of creativity. In the final third, they look like they are afraid and incapable of scoring. One game of this can be chalked up to a poor performance, but Chivas have had a frankly terrible attack since the second half of the Toronto match. That's three and a half matches with a poor offense, and without the penalty (boy, I never thought I'd say that!) a goal looked like an impossible task.
Robin Fraser made some adjustments, and brought Alejandro Moreno up top to pair with JPA. But he needs to keep tinkering, because this toothless offense is getting to be an entrenched bad habit.
Not enough vocal leadership among the outfield players: I think Dan Kennedy bosses the team around well when he needs to. But I would argue that Moreno is mainly on the field to provide leadership. Well, either he needs to step it up, or other guys need to step up, because this team seems rudderless at times. Heath Pearce? It's no coincidence that his best performances coincided with the matches in which he took a vocal leadership role on the field (against Real Salt Lake and Toronto). Nick LaBrocca? Dude needs to speak up. You all may not like him, but Peter Vagenas did this well in the season opener. Speaking of which...
Minda is suspended against San Jose: If we agree he's been one of Chivas' best players so far this season, then losing Oswaldo Minda to suspension because of yellow card accumulation is going to be a big loss. And the team they'll be playing when Minda will be out is the San Jose Earthquakes, who currently sit atop the Western Conference. Hope you're ready, Vagenas!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!