Frisco, Texas. Chivas USA travelled to FC Dallas for their first road match of this young MLS season looking to continue their point-accumulating ways. The first match between these similarly-matched squads faced up former Colombian National squad teammates, Wilmer Cabrera of Chivas and Oscar Pareja of Dallas. Fortunately, this match saw the understudy, Cabrera, and his Goats hang tight but ultimately lose 3-1.
Chivas and Dallas played to a 0-0 tie to end the first half as the Goats were able to withhold a competent and well-planned Dallas attack. The Goats were not as lucky in the second half as they saw the even score scratched as Dallas scored the go-ahead goal off a Hendry Thomas pass to Fabian Castillo in the 71st minute. Only seven minutes later saw Dallas' Je-Vaughn Watson double their goal total as Goats' defender Tony Lochhead missed a tackle and Watson positioned the shot past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy's outstretched arms as he was coming off his line.
Unlike last season, Chivas would not give up. Rookie substitute Kristopher Tyrpak picked up his first MLS assist on a brilliant pass to Erick Torres to bring the Goats to within one with approximately ten minutes to go in the match. Cubo netted his club-leading third goal which gave the Goats a glimmer of hope until...
Moments later Michel knocked a set piece by Kennedy after deflecting off Chivas' defensive line. This 3-1 lead proved to be insurmountable for the Rojiblancos to overcome.
There was a red card for the second game Chivas game running, as Thomas received his marching orders just before the full-time whistle for a two-footed challenge on Adolfo Bautista. The game featured multiple injuries, as Oswaldo Minda came out early for the Goats, and Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson both left early for Dallas.
Here's what we learned from tonight's match:
Symmetry. Coming into this evening's match, The Goat Parade's Alicia Rodriguez noted how "symmetry" existed between these two evenly matched teams. Both squads came into tonight with identical records versus one another over the last two MLS seasons. This season also sees identical records of four points resulting from both a win and tie within each squad's first two games. Those two matches also boasted equal scoring lines and exact goal differentials of 4 scored against 3 surrendered. In fact, the last four matches between these two teams resulted in four goals scored either within the 90th minute or during stoppage time to ensure matching records.
As previously stated, both coaches have a similar history and Pareja was extremely instrumental, while with the Colorado Rapids, in assisting Cabrera with his coaching techniques. Currently, both coaches have their squads effectively competing and attempting to creep into the Western Conference playoff picture.
In this first round, Pareja got the advantage over his former assistant, and though injuries hurt both sides, Dallas looked to be in control for the whole match.
Consistency. Last season saw the Goats regularly destroyed on the road against any and all opponents. Chivas struggled along to an abysmal road record with only one win, four ties and 12 losses. The Goats sought to change last year's misfortunes tonight against Dallas.
One notable exception to last year's squad was the fact that the first two matches this year replicated the exact same starting eleven. Similarities in the starting lineups were extremely rare throughout last season and something that Cabrera has vowed to change. However, an injury to Bobby Burling resulted in Seattle Sounder FC loanee Eriq Zavaleta starting in the defense. Zavaleta looked extremely solid and more than held his own both defensively as well as communicating with his teammates in his first start for Chivas. Additionally, Agustin Pelletieri sat out as he served his previous red card suspension and F Luke Moore was placed in to jump start the offense. Recent defensive revelation Thomas McNamara was then placed in Pelletieri's defensive midfield holding role. The "McMullet" was used almost entirely in that role for around 80 minutes against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC last week when the Goats were forced to play with only ten men.
Though McNamara was involved in the unfortunate injury to Jacobson, as he stepped on the midfielder's ankle, he had another solid shift for the Goats in holding mid.
Get that ball! Chivas, like any team, needs possession of the ball in order to score. Increased possessions results in increased shots, and in turn goals. Tonight's first half saw the Goats out possessed at a 2:1 ratio. Fortunately, attempts of goal were similar for the squads, but over time those statistics even out. In spite of the negative time of possession differential, Oswaldo Minda and McNamara dominated the defensive midfield until Minda's injury to end the first half. Marky Delgado entered for Minda and did an admirable job filling in.
The match's second half saw an even greater decrease in the Goats' possession and opportunities. Chivas appeared to be knocking down Dallas' door to push one by Chris Seitz (props for being a life-saving bone marrow donor). All of which coincided with the Goats' lock-down defense laid out in front of captain and goalkeeper Kennedy throughout the first half. Misfortune arose throughout the second half as Minda's absence allowed for the middle of the field to be utilized by Dallas' offense.
After only three matches into this season, it's clearly apparent that this Chivas team is dramatically different from last season's. In fact, it's completely the opposite of any of the preceding years. Tonight was a golden opportunity for additional points, but it didn't come to fruition. Chivas fought hard, but clearly didn't have the requisite parts to effectively compete in the second half. The Goats need a quick and complete recovery from Burling, Minda and Pelletieri so that they're able to field the best possible squad to grab additional points, and soon.
Chivas will now return home, regroup and then begin to prepare for travelling to New York to take on the Red Bulls next Sunday. Good luck and tomorrow is always a new day and opportunity.
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