The winless streak stretches to seven games, as Chivas USA fell to the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 Saturday night at the Home Depot Center. Despite giving a spirited performance that gave signs of hope, especially through most of the first half, the Goats couldn't score but gave up goals yet again. The form was better, but the result wasn't.
The scoring started in controversial fashion. Chivas defender John Valencia brought Quakes forward Alan Gordon down in the box in the 39th minute with a forearm or elbow shot. Gordon hit the deck, and considering his rocky relationship with Chivas' fans, there was some speculation if he was milking the play. After a considerable delay, referee Chris Penso gave Valencia a yellow card and awarded San Jose a penalty. From the stands, it seemed like a completely puzzling call, but that was because the team did not play any replay during the delay. In the end, Chris Wondolowski took the penalty and easily beat Dan Kennedy to put the Quakes up 1-0 in the 40th minute.
With that, let's discuss some of the talking points coming out of the match:
Ultimately, the penalty was a correct call: Look, the circumstances surrounding the penalty seemed fishy, at least without the benefit of the television feed. A player hits the deck, play continues for a long moment, and then the play is whistled dead. The referee spends some time talking to the assistant referee while the player is being attended to, and after he's up, a yellow card is issued and a penalty is called. Since it didn't happen on the ball, the Chivas players are stunned, and several get in the ref's face to argue about it, one of whom (Shalrie Joseph) gets a yellow card of his own for his vociferous opposition. The coaches are upset, and Robin Fraser is sent off for arguing the penalty along the sidelines. Again, no replay makes people in the stands wonder: was the call legit? Did it come out of nowhere? It's complete confusion.
But on watching the replay after the game, yes, Valencia definitely took a shot at Gordon inside Chivas' box. Last time I checked, that was a penalty. After the match, the coaches and players were in the untenable situation of acknowledging it was a play worthy of a penalty, but being mad that the assistant referee "got involved." I get the frustration, but that makes no sense. Yes, players make mistakes, but the call wouldn't have to be made if Valencia didn't make such a poor decision. And frankly, he was pretty lucky to escape with just a yellow card, and the MLS Disciplinary Committee could finally turn its attention to Chivas this week if they want. In the end, it was a penalty, and the officials did their job. If the roles were reversed, you would want Chivas to get the call too.
Bolaños is bright spot: I don't understand folks who don't like Miller Bolaños. He isn't the finished product, by any means, but he is exciting and gives Chivas something that nobody else on the roster does. He lead all players Saturday in shots, with six, an indication that he's looked around, noticed the goal-shy nature of the forwards, and decided, "You know what? I'm going to shoot when I have a chance." Good for him. I do think he takes some really dumb shots at times, and could work on finding the best shooting lanes when he's in traffic, as my eyeball test would argue that he gets more shots blocked than anybody on the team by a long shot. But he makes runs with and without the ball, he steps up to shoot, he tracks back and defends, and he isn't afraid to get mixed up with the opponents. Will he make a dumb play at some point? Most likely. But he shows an edge that most of the team doesn't, and seeing his attitude is refreshing. I hope Bolanos gets to stay in the lineup and gets to continue showing his improvement in his first season in MLS.
Let's settle on a position for Villafana: Jorge Villafana got another start at left back, presumably so Ante Jazic could get some rest ahead of Wednesday's game. I think Sueño played pretty well, but he's stuck in a half midfielder/half defender mode. That's not surprising, considering he's been moved back and forth his entire career. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea, if it hasn't happened already, to pick an ultimate position for him. If he's to be a left back, he needs to work on his positioning and closing out opposing attackers. He can get up the field well to help in the attack, and his skills on the ball are good for a defender. But he needs to focus on really training to build up his defending skills in the offseason if he's ultimately going to be the left back to replace Jazic. If he's going to end up a midfielder, he needs to work on his crossing, as well as his shooting, as he has a knack for ending up in the box with the ball and being unable to convert the chance. I think Villafana's come a very long way since joining Chivas, and I think he's developed into a pretty good player, but for the sake of his career, he needs to be slotted into a position and stay there for a while.
Looking ahead: Chivas travel out east to take on the Columbus Crew in a midweek game. The Crew has been playing very well lately, although they did fall to the New York Red Bulls Saturday, and they are trying to move up at least one place to make the playoffs. Will a change of conference change Chivas' fortunes? We'll have to wait to find out.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!