Salt Lake City, UT. For Chivas USA, it's been an excruciatingly long season. Coaching changes, embarrassing front-office turmoil, consistent player movement and losing all take an enormous toll on both the organization and its loyal fan base. Tonight's match with perennial Western Conference contenders RSL was no different as the Goats fell again 2-1.
RSL's Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring in the 49th minute with a blast past backup goalkeeper Tim Melia. Melia had an exceptional first half as he helped to keep the match even 0-0 through the first 45 minutes. However, RSL doubled their score only 3 minutes later with a Joao Plata goal. These two scores proved to be too much of an insurmountable lead for the road team to overcome.
Here's what we observed from tonight's match:
A tale of two teams. The direction that the season has taken for both the Goats and RSL can be best categorized as "contrary." With no matches remaining, RSL is now tied with the New York Red Bulls for MLS' Supporter's Shield. The NYRB still have one match remaining at home this Sunday against the Chicago Fire where either a win or tie would guarantee their capturing of the illustrious title. Additionally, RSL now stand atop the Western Conference with a two-point advantage over the Portland Timbers who play our own Rojiblancos this Saturday at Carson, California's StubHub Center. In other words, RSL have been quite the dominant force and certainly look to be one of the favorites to win this season's MLS Cup.
Chivas USA have the certain misfortune of remaining at the absolute opposite end of the standings within the Western Conference. With one match to go, the Goats have compiled only 6 wins and accumulated a dismal total of 27 points. Compounding matters is the fact that the last 28 matches have resulted in just 3 victories. Of the 9 Western Conference teams, RSL sits in first place and the Goats reside in ninth. Chivas fans are hopeful that the team can definitely improve upon this season's abysmal numbers.
Statistics matter. Many of you have been reading my match recaps throughout this season and I sincerely thank you for it. I know that it's a redundant theme for me, but favorable stats matter.
Case in point is most importantly goals and how they directly relate to wins and losses. Tonight, the Goats were again beat in virtually every relevant statistical category, including those important goals, and it resulted in another loss.
Chivas consistently falls behind its adversaries, as in RSL tonight, in many noticeable areas. Most notably, time of possession, passing accuracy, and shots on goal are not areas where a team would want to be in the negative differential. It is also important to take note that the majority of these specifics are lopsided and directly correlate to each match's final score. A more possession oriented style of play in the midfield would certainly assist in remedying these weaknesses.
"Nothing to lose." What's left to play for? Plenty would be my contention. In spite of their less than stellar record, it would rarely be asserted that the Goats didn't play with heart or effort. Coach Jose Luis Real often had his squad competing throughout each match's entirety. More often than not, the Goats were in games until the final minutes where a simple mistake or lapse in concentration would prove to be catastrophic.
Chivas' record is hardly an accurate measure of expectations going into next season. As previously stated, the entire organization had a number of mishaps which proved to be overwhelming for a young squad with many players who were unfamiliar with one another. Both coaching and repeated player movement make it extremely difficult to establish continuity and consistency that is necessary for winning organizations.
These last couple of games will continue to provide Real and Chivas' front office with more opportunities to assess player development. Players such as Erick Torres, Carlos Alvarez, Marky Delgado and Bryan de la Fuente are young studs who may simply need more time together in order to advance their abilities. Older stars such as Carlos Bocanegra and captain Dan Kennedy need to continue to provide veteran leadership as well as stellar play on the pitch.
The Goats will also find it necessary to make organizational decisions regarding complimentary players such as Eric Avila, Edgar Mejia, Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna and others for future roster spots. These matches place the Goats' players in an excellent position to advance their cases to remain with Chivas for years to come. Former RSL goalkeeper Tim Melia returned from a season-long injury to start in place of Kennedy in an effort to display his considerable skills.
Tonight's match is now in the books and the MLS season will soon follow after this weekend. With one match remaining, Chivas still have another chance to add three more points to their season totals. Perhaps there's no better way to do so than against another Western Conference powerhouse, the Portland Timbers. Come on out to Saturday's last home match and support the squad with all that we have. We are all fans regardless of wins and losses...