So, the lower league favorite in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup fourth round match "upset" the first division underdog. If that doesn't make your head spin, I'm sure watching the game would have, as Chivas USA fell 3-1 to the Carolina RailHawks. At least they weren't the only MLS team to lose, as defending USOC champion Sporting Kansas City lost to an even lower division team tonight as well. But still, it was a tough result that could have been Chivas' for the taking, had they truly taken this game seriously.
The game started in a rough way for the Goats, as speedy forward Ty Shipalane blasted through every Goat in his path to score the game's opener in the 13th minute. Chivas were dreadful in the first half, but the score stayed 1-0 through the first 45. In a maddening continuation of Chivas' performances this year, they woke up in the second half, got a got from Walter Vilchez off a Carlos Alvarez free kick in the 57th minute, and looked like they could snatch another late winner this year. But the game ended tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, so the game went to added extra time.
Carolina regained the upper hand in the extra 30 minutes, and scored a pair in the 92nd minute (by Cesar Elizondo) and the 98th minute (by Brian Ackley) to take the lead, and then seal the result. Carolina gets their revenge on Chivas for last year's loss, and Chivas are out of the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.
With that, let's go over some of the talking points from this match:
Showing up for the game late isn't working: Time after time, Chivas sleepwalk their way through first halves, often into the first hour of a game, before waking up and either making a comeback or simply playing better. Guess what? They aren't good enough to successfully do that. I'm not sure why they continue to play bad to start nearly every match, but they need to snap out of it, or else they simply won't win again. If they really want to change their fortunes, they need to be focused, defend well (or as well as they truly can) and convert their chances over 90 minutes, not the last 45 or 30. Seriously, something needs to change if they are going to have any hope of turning 2013 around.
Kennedy makes a rare mistake: On the opening goal, Dan Kennedy came way out of the box to try and head off Shipalane, and the speedy South African easily bypassed him and was able to shoot past the last defender. After looking at the replay and discussing it with somebody who was at the game, it looks like Kennedy should have stayed on his line in order to try and defend the shot straight up. Shipalane could have still converted, but given Kennedy's prowess inside the box, using his hands could have helped him, or Shipalane could have lost his nerve and taken a poor shot.
Now, I think the defense was plenty to blame in the lead up to the goal, and their inability to deal with any kind of speed means Kennedy has to take risks time and again to try and head off breakaways. He bails his defense out more than most goalkeepers would. But on this occasion, the strategy backfired, and Chivas had no answer for a fast guy with a ball at his feet.
Some good performances on the night: Tristan Bowen started the game very well and played better than I've ever seen him play for Chivas. If the Goats had a better forward on the field (Jose Correa started the game and was ineffective yet again) Bowen and "theoretical better forward" most likely would have scored in the first half. Add to that Jorge Villafana's forays up the left flank throughout the game, and the spark in the midfield that Laurent Courtois brought after coming off the bench in the second half, and there was quality. And Alvarez and Jose Manuel Rivera both had good service on set pieces, with Rivera nearly tying the score in the dying moments of regular time, to the point that I think they should be on set piece duty instead of Edgar Mejia.
The defense was very poor once more, however, and the midfield had a lot of difficulty playing a true two-way game. I think every player tried hard, but this team is overmatched...and they played a second division team tonight! That's a really, really horrible situation, especially when you consider the possibility that Chivas de Guadalajara will take any good eligible players away, and soon.
About the coaching situation: Jose Luis Real didn't coach this game, but it was reported during the broadcast (and later confirmed by somebody at the stadium) that he was in attendance. Sacha van der Most coached this game again. My question: why? If Real made the trip, why in the world didn't he just coach the game? At the point that I learned van der Most was coaching the game, I figured the team didn't really care about the game or the Open Cup and they were going to lose. Obviously the benefit of hindsight makes that conclusion easy to reach, but come on. The team is struggling something fierce, and a run in the USOC could give them a boost that could carry over to league play. But that possibility is over now. I realize I shouldn't get too carried away with a game where Chivas were absurdly considered the underdogs to begin with, but it is really, really disappointing.
Looking ahead: The Open Cup run is over, but Chivas are back to MLS play next Wednesday on the road against Vancouver. Will Real be really, truly the coach by that point? Stay tuned!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!