Chivas USA shocked MLS* Sunday afternoon by beating the New York Red Bulls 3-2 at home. A debut goal in MLS by Julio Morales and a brace by Erick Torres was the difference. Although Chivas looked the poorer side through the run of play throughout the game, the Red Bulls managed to waste opportunities of their own, fail to prevent Chivas' attackers from making good plays, and just sort of went into hibernation mode for long stretches in each half.
* That's because anything good connected to Chivas USA is regarded as shocking by many MLS observers.
In fact, the win continues Chivas' unbeaten streak against New York, now stretching three full seasons, with a 2-0-2 mark. And there were no red cards! And Chivas actually converted a penalty in league play!
The Goats opened the scoring in the 30th minute, when Morales got a solid pass from Carlos Alvarez just inside the box, and hit a tightly-angled shot past Red Bulls' goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 30th minute. But the good vibes didn't last, as the Red Bulls literally equalled the score immediately, when Tim Cahill scored on an unmarked header off a Thierry Henry corner kick.
The Goats got a nice break before halftime, when Torres went down in New York's box on a clumsy shoulder bump by Ibrahim Sekagya in stoppage time. Torres stepped up to take the PK himself (without any childish arguing that I could see) and coolly converted it to give Chivas the lead heading into the break.
In the second half, the game continued along much of the same flow, with New York dominating possession and sending plenty of set pieces and long balls into Chivas' box, but with Chivas getting chances of their own. Torres hit what was ultimately the winner in the 81st minute, when he scored on a rebound in the box. But the final minutes of the game were nervy, with Dax McCarty bringing New York within one in the 86th minute when he scored a headed goal of his own off an Henry free kick. Add to that five minutes of stoppage time in the second half, which stretched to six with Chivas really making the most of wasting time, and Bobby Burling making a goal line clearance at the very end of the game to preserve the victory, and it was a roller coaster ride, but the Goats came out on top.
So, Chivas end up on the good side of a goalfest for once. Let's briefly go over some of the talking points from this match:
Is the attack finally coming together? Let's be honest: Against most MLS opponents, Chivas won't be able to spend as much time on the ball and building attacks like they did today. New York just doesn't press very well, and that's a huge problem for them game in and game out. But while they may have had a particularly good day, Torres, Morales, Alvarez and Bryan de la Fuente all showed outstanding attacking chops and ability to link up with teammates today. Add to that the fact that they notched 15 shots between the four of them (with forwards Torres and Morales racking up 13 combined), and the earlier problems of Chivas having nobody willing to take shots looks to have been ameliorated. Of course, just shooting without taking smart shots won't improve matters, but with Torres and Morales scoring three goals between the two of them on six shots on goal, I'd say that's a good ratio, and it bodes well moving forward.
And of course, the big reason Chivas are getting on track with their attack is Torres. Although you can say converting a penalty isn't a big challenge, the fact that Chivas have dropped points this season because they can't score a PK means that the team desperately needed a player who had the swagger to score even "easy" PKs. Add to that his danger all game and ability to score in the box as well, and Cubo has rejuvenated this team. He's got four goals on the season now, and I think he can keep scoring the remainder of the season.
Minda's back: Oswaldo Minda finally, finally saw the field again today, and what a difference he made. I know his absence from the lineup has been my hobbyhorse, but without a dominant destroyer lining up for the Red Bulls, he was able to break up plays in the midfield and shield what continues to be an under-siege defense. Minda hadn't played since June 23, and as I've argued, his absence has been felt. With him on the field this season, Chivas are 3-3-1 in league play, which doesn't sound like a sparkling endorsement, but keep in mind that Chivas have only won five games this season, so really, his impact is felt pretty clearly in the results.
Chivas avoid history, in a good way: With a full team performance today, where essentially every player stepped up and contributed to the win, Chivas also managed to avoid historical futility by picking up the three points. The worst points haul the team has ever had is 18, set in 2005, and they had been sitting on that number since the draw against the Colorado Rapids a couple games back. Now, they've surpassed that number. They've also picked up more league wins than their worst mark, also in 2005. They've got some ground to cover to move up the team record books, and by no means can we consider the season a success based on the logic that they are no longer in danger of sucking the worst ever, but still, it's better than being the worst.
Looking ahead: Chivas will head up to British Columbia once again to play the Vancouver Whitecaps next Sunday. They haven't had a great mark this season so far against the 'Caps, and Vancouver is eager to get back into the playoff spots, but who knows, maybe Chivas can keep some momentum going over the next week? We shall see.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!