Carson, California. Like most teams, in virtually every sport, Chivas USA are far more comfortable and effective playing at home. Their field at Carson's StubHub Center has certainly provided a solace in an otherwise down season. Tonight's match saw the Rojiblancos seize the early lead against the Portland Timbers when Carlos Borja's cross found Bryan de la Fuente for the game's initial strike in the 23rd minute.
This early score assisted the Goats' defense as they dug deep and managed to secure another point for the small, but supportive home fans who were hoping for back-to-back clean sheets for captain Dan Kennedy.
To put it mildly, it just wasn't in the cards tonight as Timbers' substitute Diego Valeri nailed a goal on an assist from Jose Adolfo Valencia when the Goats were unable to adequately clear a ball in the match's 50th minute. This equalizer would be the game's final tally which guaranteed another home point with the 1-1 draw.
Here's what we learned tonight:
Bring 'em back! Chivas USA are certainly known around MLS circles for their constant state(s) of transition. Players, coaches and staff face enormously high turnover when compared to all their counterparts. Perhaps only Toronto FC would be a notable exception to be included with the Goats.
Organizational movement can be viewed in a positive light as Chivas constantly are searching for the right personnel to develop into a competitive club. Sometimes, we all must take "one step back to move two steps forward." In the Goats' case, it was two former players with both Borja and de la Fuente who provided their first points tonight. Additionally, another former and now current Goat, Bobby Burling, helped to anchor the defensive back line and shut down the heralded Timbers' attack for much of the evening. Massive congratulations are also provided for Bobby as he just signed a two-year extension to remain with the club.
Amidst these team changes, Chivas have exemplified an organization that is willing to both take chances as well as admit their mistakes. The fact that they now start three former Goats who have been provided another opportunity speaks volumes as to their objective to improve the team.
Home is where the heart is. This current Chivas squad has transformed into a force to be reckoned with at home. Including tonight's match, the Goats have now scored in seven straight home games. That span has seen the Rojiblancos win 3, draw 3 and only lose 1. Chivas fans are now able to witness a team coming together and exerting a home dominance that is now bordering on legitimate "swagger."
Veteran Carlos Bocanegra stated this week that "we're definitely improving," and "that's the goal." He appears to be correct as the team's mindset is now progressing toward the expectations of successes and point accumulation. These notions are certainly moving in the right direction.
Si, "Guero!" Chivas head coach Jose Luis Real has certainly changed the contentious atmosphere that surrounded his predecessor, Jose Luis Sanchez Sola. Real's team has been more relaxed and accepting of his philosophy. Real has been very clear and articulate in his teaching and tactics with his team. Bocanegra went on to elaborate further as to state how Real, "is a good leader."
One area that Real has been able to improve upon is how to make the best use of his available talent. Repeated player movement usually increases the level of difficulty for a head coach. Some moves are relatively easy such as allowing Erick Torres to work his magic and produce seven goals in nine games. Others such as utilizing Bryan de la Fuente to the best of his ability are far more difficult and require patience and understanding.
Tonight's match was yet another testament to Real's ability to maneuver personnel. Last week's D.C. United game saw Real substitute starter Julio Morales for Eric Avila in only the 28th minute. That move initiated more energy and passing efficiency into a sputtering offense so that an eventual win would be possible.
Tonight, Real stayed with Avila and also sat Homegrown budding star Marky Delgado for a more experienced Mario de Luna. Moves such as these, or providing new forward Matthew Fondy extended minutes (entered in the 56th) and allowing yellow carded (25th minute) Oswaldo Minda to aggressively play on, exhibit Real's faith in his players and himself. This is the type of direction a team needs from its eighth coach in nine years.
Tonight was another solid match for a team in a positive transition. The Goats now have secured 9 points in their last 7 matches. Next week will see the team travel to play the Dynamo in Houston on September 21st. Without a doubt, higher expectations are being sought and are based in no small part on Chivas' recent productive results. Onward and upward the Goats go.