As it turns out, Chivas USA hate playing at the Home Depot Center more than they hate being the home team, as they fell to the LA Galaxy 3-1 Saturday in the second edition of the 2012 SuperClasico. The Galaxy took the lead in the 14th minute and really never looked back, although Chivas had a brief stretch at the start of the second half when they looked dangerous. In the end, the quality of the Galaxy and the sloppy play on Chivas' end overwhelmed the Goats and they faced their fourth lopsided loss of 2012.
The Galaxy got on the board in the 14th minute when David Beckham sent a very good pass through the Chivas defense to a waiting Robbie Keane, who made a run to beat the offside trap and ran in alone on goal. Dan Kennedy came out to try to hold off the onrushing Keane, but he poked it past the keeper easily. From there, Chivas looked pretty disjointed and had difficulty getting into the game. They were quite fortunate to enter the break down only a goal.In the second half, the Galaxy doubled their lead quickly, as the three designated players connected. First David Beckham sent a long pass to Robbie Keane, then Keane looked up and sent another long pass to Donovan, who beat the onrushing Kennedy easily. At that point, it seemed the game was over, and in the end it was, although Chivas did come back to life for a few minutes. In the 52nd minute, Ryan Smith, who had a very poor first half, cut in towards goal on the right side and beat Sean Franklin, then laid the ball off just outside the box to substitute Paolo Cardozo, who hit a wicked shot that went just inside the post for his first goal in his MLS career. Chivas continued to play promising soccer for the next 10 minutes or so, but the Galaxy kept knocking on the door for the security goal.
Donovan had two second half shots go off the post, but he scored his second in the 78th minute when he got the ball right in front of goal off a shot by Bryan Gaul following a corner kick. Although Chivas claimed Donovan handled the ball on Gaul's shot, the replays showed that the ball went off his hip. After the block, he turned quickly and shot it, and it didn't have far to go, since he was basically on the goalline.
With that, let's look at the talking points tonight:
Cardozo produces, Smith is all over the place: I have been very vocal in my frustration with Paolo Cardozo lately, and I think he deserves credit for stepping up and scoring tonight. Not only did he score his first goal, but he also scored a tough goal. I have a feeling that's how it is for him - he bypasses the easy moves for hard, pretty much all the time. But in a week in which Cardozo and Miller Bolanos (who was perhaps Chivas' best attacking player overall on the night) both opened their scoring accounts with Chivas, hopefully this is a step in the right direction for them and for the team. The goal outburst may never come in 2012, but at least they are coming a little more easily and from new sources.
Meanwhile, Ryan Smith had a game full of ups and downs. In the first half, he was very lethargic, did not really make much effort to go after the ball, and often didn't move even when his teammates had the ball. I know that defense is not his preferred job, but he looked pretty awful on the offensive end as well. He turned that around in the second half, however, as he nearly replicated the move he made Wednesday to set up the winning goal against Portland, and he got a team-leading fourth assist tonight in setting up Cardozo. Obviously, he's doing some things right, but I wonder why it had to take him 50 minutes to get into the game tonight. Then, his good performance went south as he came off with what looked like a clear hamstring injury in the 57th minute. Considering he's the only player setting up goals at the moment, let's hope his teammates get involved and let's hope he recovers quickly.
Defense shows flaws again: As I wrote above, Chivas have had four bad losses this season. The gameplan in all four of those games for the other team is obvious: Chivas are susceptible to fast and powerful forwards making runs on the last shoulder of the defender, letting long passes through on those runs, and on multiple players making mazy runs towards Dan Kennedy. In all four games, Kennedy was on an island and completely helpless, and couldn't stop the floodgates from opening. The good news is that Chivas have let in goal explosions in only four matches this season. I know, that is still fairly high, but at least the bad losses are occasional and not a regular occurrence. I think the backline core is still quite good, but they need to put in some work in training to better deal with their weaknesses.
To DP or not to DP: Here's the reality: the Galaxy have three designated players, and all three were involved in multiple goals tonight. Chivas have zero designated players and they barely mustered up a goal. I've written in the past that Chivas cannot go out and sign a DP for the sake of having one. They need to do their homework and bring in a player capable of contributing in a big way, and at this point Chivas would be a substantially better team if they had a central attacking midfielder who could score and/or set up goals. I know that money is an issue at this club, and if Robin Fraser and Jose Domene are not given more money, and cannot sign the higher quality players that other teams are able to, Chivas are going to be playing with one leg tied behind their back, and that disadvantage will grow as more teams sign more expensive players. I know Chivas are committed to a youth policy in the long run, and that could prove to be a successful strategy over time, but those youngsters who do pan out need to be supplemented by stars who can prove their quality in this league. The longer Chivas go without reaching for stars who can contribute, the more likely we'll see results like tonight's on a continual basis.
Looking ahead: Chivas will get a final chance at the Portland Timbers next weekend in Portland. The Timbers got thrashed 5-0 tonight to FC Dallas (who were in the basement with them before the match), so they are going to either be completely demoralized and will be ripe for the picking, or they will play with complete abandon because they have nothing to lose and catch Chivas unawares. Both teams basically need to win, so it should shape up to be an interesting match.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!