Carson, California. After ten straight days off without a match, Chivas USA returned to the Stubhub Center to face FC Dallas. The rest did little to help the Goats as they suffered a difficult home loss 3-1 even after scoring the match's first strike.
Hopes were certainly riding high going into tonight's match as 4 of the Goats' 18 points this season have come in their previous two matches against Dallas. Their past successes, coupled with Dallas' recent struggles with failing to win any match in their last eleven, had Chivas players and fans anticipating a potential opportunity for three points. These thoughts never came to fruition, even with a one-man advantage due to a Dallas red card, because of a flurry of three late goals.
Prior to tonight's match, 10 of Dallas' 31 goals occurred after the 71st minute of their matches. Tonight was no different as Blas Perez began the barrage in exactly that moment with a pass from Fabian Castillo in which diving goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was unable to reach. The match appeared to be heading for a draw after Dallas' Jackson Goncalvez received a red card for colliding with the Goats' Carlos Bocanegra in the 81st minute. However, recent substitutes David Ferreira and Ramon Nunez put the game out of reach with subsequent goals in the 86th and 90th minutes, respectively.
The Goat's recently-signed midfielder Bryan de la Fuente, in his second MLS match, scored his first goal for the Goats off of an assist from Marky Delgado in the 43rd minute of the match. De la Fuente, whom Chivas only signed yesterday, scored the opener in his second MLS match and first ever start. Although de la Fuente would become one of Chivas' bright spots, it's important to note that their defensive pressure needed to remain constant for the match's entirety in order to result in earning any points.
Here's what we learned from tonight's match:
Eleven is the magic number. Chivas' main advantage this evening was the fact that their squad was able to remain completely intact. Four of the Goats' last five matches resulted in them finishing shorthanded. Red card suspensions have crippled Chivas throughout this MLS season. Those suspensions affected the Goats' lineup tonight as they were forced to play without both Tristan Bowen and Gabriel Farfan who received red cards in their last match against the Colorado Rapids. Head Coach Jose Luis Real has reiterated that Chivas must remain together on the pitch and play as a collective group. More importantly, their matches will be far more competitive if they're able to play with equal numbers. Tonight was even a reversal of fortunes as the Goats were able to play with a man up after Dallas' Jackson received a red card in the 81st minute.
All-Star Goalkeepers. The MLS All-Star Game's last two starting goalkeepers squared off against each other this evening. Last year's starter and current Goat captain, Dan Kennedy, is now in sole possession of the MLS lead in saves. Coming into tonight's match, Kennedy had 82 and picked up 2 more. This season's MLS All-Star starting keeper was Dallas' Raul Fernandez as he clearly exhibited why he deserved that designation with 2 important saves. Both players ceded goals, but were also directly responsible for keeping their teams within reach of a victory.
Young but gaining experience. Chivas USA have continued to amend their starting eleven with a game-by-game consistency. These variable lineups have mostly been attributable to new player acquisitions as well as the aforementioned disciplinary suspensions. These actions have placed Real in an unenviable position of lacking any sustainable player continuity. Player consistency is absolutely essential for fostering familiarity and cohesion within the team.
Changes notwithstanding, Chivas have been able to successfully collect the necessary building blocks to hopefully construct a contender for years to come. Young players such as Delgado, Erick "Cubo" Torres, Eric Avila, Carlos Alvarez and now possibly Bryan de la Fuente might prove to be the franchise's future cornerstones of which to build around. Veteran stars such as Bocanegra and Kennedy need to continue their leadership and positive influence with the notion that attainable results are definitely within reach.
Chivas now have time to regroup and reorganize as they next face the New York Red Bulls at home this Sunday. At least their squad will be near complete with players returning from suspensions as there's always a silver lining in any cloud.