Chivas USA's 3-0 win over the New England Revolution on Saturday evening extended the team's unbeaten streak to five, and saw the club survive the whole month of April without falling to defeat. The Goat Parade breaks down four crucial lessons learned from the win this weekend.
Robin Fraser knows what the hell he's talking about.
I'll admit it; I was skeptical of the new maestro during his first few weeks at the Chivas USA helm. Playing Zarek Valentin at center-back? Yanking Justin Braun from the starting XI? Replacing Thornton with Kennedy?
I had my doubts. But not anymore.
Valentin has been moved outside and has proven himself a spirited defender. Braun was the club's leading goalscorer last season, but the Goats have won both games in which the Utah native was used as a sub. His pace, power, and relentless tracking of the ball might all actually make him more dangerous as 60th minute introduction. And Kennedy has been outstanding. Thornton has the experience, but Kennedy has the speed and agility. The team went unbeaten in April and is really starting to click.
Ben Zemanski is the real deal.
Last season, Zemanski was seemed to be little more than one of those feel-good stories about a guy who makes up for his lack of talent with pure guts. But all that has changed this year. Given more responsibility by Fraser, Zemanski has become the defensive spark plug for the Red and White in the center of the pitch. He hassles opposing attackers better than most, and his distribution has shown marked improvement from the 2010 campaign. He's quickly becoming the crucial fulcrum around which the Chivas USA midfield hinges; that guy who makes all his teammates look good because of his hard work and, well, pure guts.
El Ataque Español
Last year, Chivas USA struggled to score goals. This season, Alejandro Moreno, Marcos Mondaini, and Jorge Flores are doing their best to ensure that problem goes away. The trio of Spanish-speaking attackers has been in great form so far in 2011, combining to form a three-pronged threat at the head of the Red and White offense. Moreno is looking younger with each game, Mondaini seems to have finally adjusted to the American game, and Flores carries the ball with the composure of a much older player. If their chemistry continues to improve, opposing defenses will have a tricky time keeping the ball out of their net.
Don't get me wrong; I love Jimmy Conrad. He's had a brilliant career and provides the kind of leadership and experience that any MLS team would kill for.
But we don't need him.
Heath Pearce has settled into his new role as a center-back nicely. He brings pace to the position, and his time spent as an outside back has given him an eye for solid, attack-minded distribution out of the back. And New Zealand international Andrew Boyens has been phenomenal. His height has finally Chivas USA a badly needed guard against set pieces, and he's been strong alongside Pearce.
I hate to be the one to say it, but when Conrad is healthy again, he should be on the bench.