Well, it was cold as promised, but it did not snow, and the brand new setting did not throw Chivas USA for a loop all game, as they ended up with a resounding 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire Sunday. Much like the pattern of the first three games, Chivas started slowly, as did their opponents, and all five goals came in the second half.
The first half was hard to watch, frankly, as both teams played frantic and disjointed soccer, although on balance Chicago had the upper hand in the play that half. Chivas got the breakthrough to open the floodgates in the 57th minute, when good link-up play on the flanks set up Edgar Mejia to receive a pass from about 25 yards out from Juan Agudelo, and bury a shot past Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi. It is Mejia's first goal in MLS, and it was a beauty.
Chivas appeared to be in control of the match for the next few minutes, but Chicago got their long-awaited breakthrough in the 64th minute, when Patrick Nyarko received a pass from Sherjill MacDonald at the top of the box and poked it past Dan Kennedy. It was Chicago's first goal all season, and with both teams on the board, the quality of the play increased and both teams finally settled down.
Chivas got the winner in the 73rd minute, when Mejia, whose set piece delivery was vastly improved over the last couple games, sent in a free kick from well out to the far post. Joaquin Velazquez, who was on the field because his red card was overturned during the week, got his head on it and redirected to the opposite post and past Tornaghi. It was Velazquez's first goal in MLS as well, who unsurprisingly hasn't been a prolific scorer in his career.
Deciding he wanted to get in on the action as well, Agudelo hit a golazo of his own just two minutes later to ice the game, by faking out Jeff Larentowicz in the box then curling a shot just inside the post to make it 3-1. It's a good sign for Agudelo, who now has two impressive goals so far this season. To cap off the night, and to add insult to injury, Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba scored an own goal in the 89th minute after botching his clearance on substitute Jose Correa's cross.
With that, let's go over some of the talking points coming out of this match:
Goal explosion! Ok, so one of the goals was an own goal, but Chivas teams of the last couple of years would not have even put defenders in a position to screw up and score own goals. According to my count, the last time Chivas put four goals on an opponent in MLS regular season play was May 2010, when they beat the New England Revolution 4-0. Add to that, Chivas currently lead the league in goals scored this season (h/t to Adam Hughes for pointing that out). With those eight goals coming in three games, it looks like the attacking soccer Chelís promised is coming to fruition.
Now, Mejia and Agudelo had fantastic goals that demonstrated their individual skill. And Velazquez possibly didn't have the skill that the other two had on his goal, but his header was placed perfectly to elude Tornaghi. The team continues to fight, they continue to get by on relatively few shots, but when they do get shots, they make them count. Obviously, after suffering through last season's goal constipation, seeing four whole goals in a game is quite a relief.
DK the man once again: You know who won't get credit in this game? Dan Kennedy. The good news is that the team got the win, and that the attack is finally taking some of the heat off the defense. These are all good developments. But for all the talk that Chicago is a bad team (they aren't a great team, to be sure) they had more than double the number of chances, and more shots on goal than Chivas (8 to 5). Kennedy ended up with eight saves on the night. Eight! The defense only really broke down on the goal, but they looked shaky at various times, and Kennedy propped them up when necessary. The best thing that can happen to this team is that we stop talking about his contributions game in and game out (assuming he remains at a high level, which he is). It looks like we are on our way to doing that, but DK had a monster game to ensure the scoreline ended up lopsided in the Goats' favor.
Still work to do: Obviously I don't want to rain on the parade, but this team is still coming together. As I mentioned, Mejia's set piece delivery was much improved today, despite the sharp winds. Chelís brought on two more players making their season debuts, Jorge Villafana and Daniel Antunez, thereby maintaining the streak that every player who has played so far this season has been part of a win or draw. Villafaña made the mistake of keeping Chicago's Daniel Paladini on a shot that went off the post, but besides that, Sueño had a very good game setting up his teammates on the left. It seems pretty clearly at this point that his best position is as a left winger.
The defense has allowed six goals this season, tied for worst in the conference, but they have allowed fewer goals in three of four games than the team has scored, so overall, they are doing their job. Still, there is a very real possibility that the team that gets off to a hot start in a game against Chivas will put up three goals inside of 15 minutes. This team has shown considerable resilience and ability to put the ball in the net, but they need to work on sharpening their team defense moving forward.
Looking ahead: Chivas will host the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday to finish off the opening month of the season. Vancouver has looked exciting at times this season, but they are coming off a tough loss on the road to the Houston Dynamo. Will Chivas be able to finally beat the Whitecaps in MLS? We'll find out Saturday.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!