CARSON, CA - JULY 07: This is the closest visual approximation to the whole match. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
On a night when more than half of the MLS matches ended scoreless, Chivas USA contributed to the tally with one of their own, as they played to a disjointed 0-0 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps at the Home Depot Center Saturday. The result moves Chivas up one place in the standings, at least until we find out the result of the Galaxy game tomorrow. But while they are currently knocking on the door of the playoff positions, they are also only one point out of 8th place in the West and four points above the basement. Continuing a recent pattern, Chivas appear to both be in decent position for a playoff run and also hopelessly out of the mix. It's a contradiction, I realize, but it seems to fit.
The highlights were frankly few and far between on the night. Vancouver had the better of the first half, although frankly it was poor overall. The Whitecaps fed crosses into the box for Eric Hassli, who had a size advantage over Chivas' entire defense, but he couldn't successfully capitalize. Sebastien Le Toux had a few of the better chances, as he had a nice reaction shot off a Rauwshan McKenzie miscue in the 35th minute that narrowly went wide. Things picked up for both teams in the second half, but no breakthrough came. New Designated Player Barry Robson sent a dangerous corner kick through the box in the 53rd minute, but it curled just past the far post. He did the same thing in the 77th minute. At this pace, he'll score an olimpico soon.Shortly after that, Chivas started putting together chances and seemed to take greater control of the game. Good crosses came from James Riley and Jose Correa, but nothing doing. In the 72nd minute, Juan Pablo Angel took a free kick that Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon bobbled, his only mistake of the night. The rebound fell to Correa, but he couldn't get a clean shot off the chance in front of the box. A minute later, Paolo Cardozo had one of Chivas' best chances, with a free kick that Cannon had to tip over the post to keep out. In the 88th minute, Ben Zemanski had the best chance of the game, as he received a cross from James Riley right in front of goal, but he ended up sending it over the bar. Although that seemed like the game, Chivas had one final burst in the 90th minute, when the ball ended up to Jorge Villafana in the box, who had two shots that got blocked.
It wasn't a night for the history books, but let's take a look at some talking points coming out of the match:
Result should be taken in context: Chivas have only lost one of their last 11 matches (in all competitions). That's a good run, certainly, but five of those games were draws, while only two of the wins were in the league. So as with everything associated with this team, it's a mixed bag. But here's the deal: if Chivas find a way to win Wednesday against the Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup, this result won't really be disappointing. The upcoming semifinal is the tipping point of Chivas' season to this point, and they will have a tough task, no doubt, but the Vancouver match was second priority. If Chivas win Wednesday, all is great around Chivatown, while if they lose, the draw tonight will reverberate more and the failure to make up ground on their rivals will sting even more.
Kennedy and defense got another clean sheet: This team is still struggling to score goals, and they are rooted to the bottom of the league in scoring. That is an obvious problem and something that anybody who follows Chivas knows all too well this year. But to put a positive spin on it, the Goats are doing well on the defensive end. They got their fifth shutout in the league with this match, and they have allowed the fewest goals of any teams in the Western Conference. Dan Kennedy only had to make a solitary save tonight, but his defense was busy. And it was great to see Villafana deputize at left back and play a full 90 minutes, as Ante Jazic was suffering from a groin strain, according to Robin Fraser. Considering the size and smarts of Vancouver's attackers, it was a tall task for the Goats' backline, but they took care of business and kept the visitors off the scoreline. They were the reason the team picked up a point.
Better showing from Cardozo: Through 45 minutes, Cardozo showed much of the same: good skill on the ball, a tendency to look great dribbling through midfield, but turning toward the corner flags and getting muscled off the ball the closer he came to goal. However, he really orchestrated Chivas' second half attack, and had his best showing in a Chivas jersey. He seemed to link up better with his teammates, provided decent set piece service, including the great free kick that needed to be saved, and had a little more intent in going for goal. It was an improved showing, but the bottom line is that the team still doesn't score with any ease or consistency. I think Cardozo's a player who needs to be evaluated based on the number of goals he helps produce, and the grand total still sits at zero. It was an improved performance, but I hope he still has more to give, and it needs to be soon, frankly.
Looking ahead: Yeah, yeah, there's a league game against the Portland Timbers in about a week and a half, but the big game is Wednesday. We'll have plenty of U.S. Open Cup coverage ahead of the match!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!