Chivas USA defeated the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday 2-0 at the Home Depot Center. Goals from Ben Zemanski (64th minute) and Nick LaBrocca (84th minute) brought the three points, and season sweep, for the Goats. The win takes them up to 6th in the Western Conference, leapfrogging San Jose and renewing hopes they can earn a spot in the playoffs this season. With the victory, let's take a look at some of the talking points coming out of the match.
Fraser got his lineup and substitutions right: Despite starting defensive liability Michael Umana, Fraser put out a lineup that worked together well and integrated some new starters. Blair Gavin started in place of Paulo Nagamura and looks like he is finally getting into game shape after a long injury layoff. Ben Zemanski did not start, but made the game's biggest impact when he came on for Jorge Flores in the 58th minute. Panchito Mendoza came on as a defensive substitution to try and preserve the lead, and he helped accomplish that, along with setting up LaBrocca's goal with a flawless pass to the edge of the box. And Marcos Mondaini, who did not look like he was fully healthy against Chicago last Saturday, got to sit for the whole match and rest up ahead of Saturday's game against Sporting Kansas City.
Getting a clean sheet was huge: Given the defensive frailties shown lately, it was important that Chivas not only got the win, but also a clean sheet on the night. San Jose did not play their best game, but Chivas were able to stop Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, in addition to the supporting cast that can be very dangerous. They also improved from their last showing against the Earthquakes, as Wondolowski scored in the April 23 match before Chivas scored two goals to win that match. So perhaps the Goats can build on this performance and bring some confidence against Sporting KC, who have a plethora of attacking options and have roared into form in recent weeks.
Nick LaBrocca continues his career year: With Mondaini on the bench, LaBrocca was counted on again to shoulder the offensive burden, and he came up big. For the second straight game, he scored, and his tally on the season is 5, equal to his previous MLS career total. His performances on a weekly basis leave Chivas fans thankful Toronto FC was willing to part ways with him over the offseason. Where would the Goats be without him?
Zemanski's goal was a beauty: I remember watching the second game of the season, against Colorado, and wondering if Chivas would ever get the courage to take long-distance shots from time to time (or any shots, really). Fast forward to this game, and it looks like they are no longer spooked by the goal. Zemanski's goal was the latest in a series of long distance bombs by Chivas (including LaBrocca's against Chicago last week, and Michael Lahoud's against FC Dallas last month). What made the goal all the more exciting was the swerve the ball had as it made its way through the box and past Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch. Maybe Chivas are getting a knack for the spectacular goals.
Victor Estupinan may become a good MLS pro after all: Perhaps most surprisingly, Victor Estupinan got his first career MLS start. Estupinan has looked really out of his depth in his brief cameos this season, but I thought he did really well, particularly in the first half. He worked hard, was able to put the ball on frame more than most Chivas strikers, and tracked back to get the ball. It is easy to laugh at his boast following the MLS SuperDraft this past winter that he was going to score 30 goals this season, but it looks like he has put his head down and attempted to earn a second look from the coaching staff. I think that if he strings together a few more performances like that (and, you know, scores) he has to move past Chris Cortez on the depth chart and become the first striker off the bench when Chivas have a full strength squad.