Carson, California. Tonight's match saw Chivas USA return "home" to the StubHub Center to play host to the streaking Portland Timbers. The Timbers, fresh off their weekend victory over the New York Red Bulls, have now secured points in their last six games after defeating Chivas 2-0. This loss ended the Goats' opportunity to extend their run of consecutive points to three straight games.
This evening saw the well rested Rojiblancos try and capitalize on a visiting and tired Timbers squad. Chivas' anticipated energy was not apparent throughout the first half as Portland dominated possession time (by 30%), passing accuracy (by 17%) and attempts on goal (at a 5:1 ratio). Will Johnson and the seldom-started Michael Nanchoff were controlling the match's tempo and keeping the ball off the feet of Mauro Rosales and his Goats.
Following a 0-0 stalemate through 45, the second half saw Portland finally crack the scoreboard with former CUSA midfielder Jorge Villafana finding Fanendo Adi open between Chivas' CBs, Bobby Burling and Carlos Bocanegra, for an easy shot past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in the match's 65th minute. However, Adi didn't stop there as he nailed a brace only six minutes later on a wide open breakaway goal from a Diego Valeri pass.
The Goats racked up yet another red card as Burling charged Adi near Portland's bench in the 84th minute, sending the Nigerian flying, before jawing at the Timbers players and staff.
Here's what we learned from tonight's match:
Sitting back and digging in doesn't cut it. Rarely does failing to attack result in goals scored. A team must advance the ball beyond their own territory and attempt to create scoring opportunities through any means necessary. Chivas' first 45 minutes resulted in one measly shot on goal. On a positive note, the Goats did keep the vaunted Portland attack scoreless as well and the defense certainly deserves massive credit for ensuring the match remained competitive in the first half.
With that said, the second half didn't go as planned either. Not only was there no Chivas attack, but the defense finally faltered, as Portland figured out how to unlock them, and as Valeri and Nagbe helped bring the extra dose of quality to the field.
Identify and overcome notable deficiencies. Coming into this match, Chivas were still having exceptional difficulties with penalty accumulation. In only eleven total games, the Goats already have been flagged with 29 yellow cards and 4 reds. These issues were prevalent throughout last season's disastrous results. Coach Wilmer Cabrera has repeatedly reference overcoming these concerns, but little has been exhibited by the players on the pitch as tonight sees two more yellows with Marco Delgado, Agustin Pelletieri and then Carlos Alvarez picking them up in the match's 10th, 28th and 87th minutes, respectively. Even worse, the 84th minute saw Burling pick up a straight red of his own.
Speaking of the pitch, the writer has exhaustively commented on time of possession. It was an extremely negative differential last season and so far it has still not been addressed. Prior to matching up with Portland, the Goats have only controlled the ball on an average of 44% within each of their games. Not coincidentally, this has directly decimated possible scoring attempts (only 81 to date) and goals scored (sadly, only 13 on the season). Poor possessions that are repeatedly crippled by unforced turnovers also place added pressure on a shaky backline and veteran goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Change and plan. Plan and change. Erick Torres will probably eventually leave Chivas USA to return to Chivas Guadalajara once his loan is completed. Cubo has openly spoke of his desire to return and his striker role will be an extremely difficult void to fill considering he has tallied 8 of Chivas' 13 total goals this season. Whether or not Torres leaves should not be the only concern. Perhaps more importantly, finding an adequate running mate or secondary scorer needs to become one of Cabrera's primary objectives. MLS Super Draft rookie Thomas McNamara appeared to possess that potential until a devastating knee injury prematurely ended his promising young season.
Even with McNamara on the mend, eventually and the possibility of Cubo staying, Chivas certainly appear as if they could use more goal-scoring prowess. Newly acquired Marvin Chavez, prior to going on national duty, and Martin Rivero may have some assets to assist with increasing the Goats' scoring output, but clearly there are more questions than answers. Tonight's match with the Timbers was no different as the struggle continues to create opportunities to put points on the board. It may be time to provide youngsters such as Ryan Finley, Kristopher Tyrpak and fan favorite Matthew Fondy greater opportunities to remain on the field for extended periods of time to "learn as they go."
Changing tides also should be considered with regards to the defensive backline. Captain Bocanegra continues to play well, but his age and possible injuries may begin to factor into both his available playing time and impact on the pitch. Fellow CB Burling has also had his fair share of defensive difficulties. The time may be fast coming to entrust Seattle-loanee Eriq Zavaleta with more playing time as he has shown enormous promise with his relatively few appearances (on a side note, he could help out as a forward due to dominating NCAA Soccer at Indiana University). Finally, decide and stay with a starting left fullback. Eric Avila has been learning exceptionally fast on the right, but the left has been mostly by committee with the likes of Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Tony Lochhead and Donny Toia all sharing duties.
Back in town: Speaking of LBs, it was certainly good to see former Goat (Once a Goat...) Villafana's return, albeit in a Timbers' jersey and connecting on the game-winning assist. Fortunately, I was able to see another former Goat, Rauwshan McKenzie see additional action as he did against the NYRB.
Chivas will now have only three days to regroup in time for Saturday's home match against the visiting Philadelphia Union. Needless to say, such a quick turnaround should provide Cabrera with an ideal opportunity to allow some of the Goats' other players to have extended time to make their cases as viable rotation options. Here's to continuing the trend of developing young talent and improving on a match-to-match basis.
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