Seattle, Washington. Arriving a couple days early did little to assist Chivas USA in their trip to play the Sounders at CenturyLink Field this evening. The Goats proved to be barely competitive throughout a dominant first half as Seattle appeared to control the tempo and the score in spite of playing with a heavily depleted lineup. Seattle did little to waiver as they were able to successfully hold off the visitors for a final tally of 1-0.
Chivas were also forced to make a late scratch with defensive star Carlos Bocanegra due to a hopefully minor heel injury. Seattle's Lamar Neagle opened the game's score sheet with a beautifully delivered kick past Goats' captain Dan Kennedy off a Marc Burch set piece. Poor defensive marking left Kennedy without any legitimate opportunity to prevent the Seattle strike. Neagle's 6th goal of the season continued Seattle's early domination of the Rojiblancos.
Here's what we observed from tonight's match:
Parallel lines. Coming into this evening's game, Chivas and Seattle had both been playing far better of late. The Sounders had won 5 of their previous 6 matches. Their 15 and now 18 point accumulation has them solely in possession of second place in the Western Conference. Tonight was no different as their recent run of play clearly continued in spite of whomever they placed on the pitch.
With that said, the Goats have also been on a relative upward swing of late. Chivas' last two matches saw a win against the New York Red Bulls as well as a tie in their last game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Vancouver match could have easily resulted in another three points if not for a heartbreaking 93rd minute goal from Tommy Heinemann.
Get off to a solid start. A notable positive from an otherwise disappointing season for Chivas has been their consistently good starts to their matches. Tonight was an anomaly as the Goats were absolutely shredded apart by the Sounders from the opening whistle. Seattle not only scored the game's only goal, but did so in an extraordinary fashion. Tonight's first half saw Seattle win the shots on goal at a margin of 7-4. Their time of possession was 50% higher as the Sounders controlled it 60% to Chivas' 40%. Finally, Seattle's pass completion percentage was 10% higher. The only leading statistic for the Goats was in yellow cards as reinserted defender Mario de Luna exhibited some tenacity with an aggressive move in the 34th minute.
This match was a clear and concrete reversal as we saw Seattle's players blast crosses and deep penetrating drives with relative ease through the Goats' porous defense. Plays like these kept Chivas on their heels and basically incapable of mounting any significant counter attack.
All of these statistics and tendencies are a far cry from the familiarity that Chivas fans have become used to with early Erick Torres goals and lock-down defensive tenacity from Kennedy and company. The Goats normally play far better in the beginning of a match and have their fans much more concerned with ending well and preserving a lead.
History and it's players. Seattle has a very solid record against Chivas in their last 10 matches. Throughout that stretch, the Sounders are undefeated in winning 6 and drawing in the other 4. Tonight's victory extended that dominance and marked their 3rd victory against the Goats within just this MLS season.
Notwithstanding Seattle's recent success, the Goats had every reason to be optimistic tonight. The Sounders would be without several key contributors to either International Duty or injury. Gone were Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Shalrie Joseph, and Obafemi Martins. Chivas' only notable absence was the aforementioned Bocanegra. These lineups proved to be of little differential to the historical results of this series. The Goats attempted to change things up with second-half substitutes Eric Avila, newly signed Matthew Fondy and Gabriel Farfan in order to speed up the tempo and add more offensive presence. While Jose Luis Real's moves helped Chivas, they were not enough to bear the fruit of either an equalizer or a stunning victory.
Points do not always need to be earned for lessons to be learned. Seattle is an extremely difficult venue for any away squad. Chivas didn't come away with their desired results, but they did show grit and heart in neither giving up nor conceding any additional goals. Thankfully, the Goats are returning home to face DC United this Sunday for what will be their third game in eight days.
Right around the corner is another opportunity for three points...