Chivas USA returned to action Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids, but fell to the visitors 1-0. A pair of first half penalty kicks made the difference, as the Rapids converted theirs, and Chivas did not. Surely with the high spirits surrounding the Goats, the result is a disappointment, but given the opportunity they had, they ought to have gotten a point at the very least.
Colorado rookie forward DeShorn Brown earned a penalty just minutes into the match, when Eric Avila had a rough challenge just inside Chivas' box, and referee Kevin Stott pointed to the penalty spot. Brown stepped up to take it, and scored in the 7th minute, giving the Rapids the early lead.
Chivas struggled all night with their chances in the run of play, and goalkeeper Clint Irwin had to only make two saves on the night, neither one especially difficult. But Chivas earned a penalty of their own in the 36th minute, when Shane O'Neill collided with Tristan Bowen in Colorado's box. Bowen attempted to take the penalty, but Jose Correa ran to the ball and refused to let Bowen take it. Correa then bounced his penalty kick off the crossbar, so he'll certainly get some heat for that decision. From there, it was a lot of fouling by both sides, plenty of yellow cards, and several saves by Dan Kennedy.
With that, let's go over the talking points from the match:
Slamming Correa: Fair or foul? Although Chivas didn't play well, Correa will probably come under heavy fire for his decision to wave off Bowen and take the PK. If Juan Agudelo had started the match, he likely would have taken the penalty, and there wouldn't have been a conflict, but Agudelo was not healthy enough to go 90 minutes. Bowen and Correa both take PKs for reserve matches, and with the preferred PK taker off the field, I suppose it would have come down to the two starting forwards.
It is obvious that Correa and Bowen are desperate to get involved in the scoring, and they both wanted to take the spot kick in order to jumpstart their fortunes and get some confidence. Penalties do get missed and saved, it is certainly a part of the game, but it can't really be tolerated. Correa isn't solely responsible for Chivas' poor performance overall, but I think he should get a significant share of the blame for botching Chivas' only strong chance on the night.
Colorado out-Chivased Chivas: You know the game plan that Chivas have used successfully this season? Well, Colorado basically flipped the script and used that on Chivas. Brown got his team an early lead, and the Rapids sat back, absorbed attacks, fouled their opponents like crazy in the midfield, and made counterattacks when they could. They are the first Chivas opponent to out-foul the Goats this season (20 to 17), and they pressed Chivas a lot harder than Chivas pressed them. It worked like gangbusters.
Moving forward, Chivas have three main tasks to work on in training before the next match. First, Colorado figured out how slow Chivas was at playing out of the back, and they put tons of pressure on Bobby Burling in particular in this respect. A more skilled team could really take advantage of this problem and Chivas will need to work on moving the ball more briskly. Second, Chivas need to work on getting the final pass and taking more shots. As I predicted in the preview, the team that took fewer shots lost this game, and Chivas had a hard time even putting Irwin to the test, so he had a pretty easy night. Bad nights happen, but they should put in a bit more work on attacking and finishing.
Third, Chivas need to do some work on changing up their approach when they are not reacting to their opponent's game. Colorado gave Chivas the opportunity to dictate the game, and Chivas clearly look like they are more comfortable reacting than taking it to the opponent. This may not be an issue next week against Real Salt Lake, but if they can stay solid overall and keep getting results, they won't always be simply reacting to their opponent.
Good night for Kennedy: I highlighted the goalkeepers in the preview, and they both had a good night. Kennedy gave up a goal, but since penalties are not frequently saved, he was unlucky to have to face one and to fail to get a clean sheet (or for that matter, a point) on the night. During the first half, he was peppered, and stepped up to make six saves. Really, if DK wasn't doing his thing, this scoreline could have looked much worse, especially with Brown and Atiba Harris poking around and getting off several shots each.
As one game, I'm not too concerned with this result. Bad games happen, and Chivas didn't have the rhythm they had built up prior to the bye. I'm sure this result produces some survivor flashbacks in Kennedy's mind, as he's had way too many of these futile performances the last couple years, but if Chivas can get back on track next week and give DK some support on both ends of the field, this game will be just a blip.
Looking ahead: Chivas will go on the road again and face a tough test against Real Salt Lake next Saturday. Truthfully, RSL has shown some vulnerabilities this season, and they sat back through most of the second half today against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a 1-1 draw. Still, they have mostly owned Chivas the last few years, and I'm sure both sides will be highly motivated to get three points. Can Chivas start another unbeaten/winning streak? They'll have seven days to shake off tonight's loss and get back on track.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!