A lot was made of the five-game road trip for Chivas USA, and four-fifths of the way through it, the Goats have five points. That's not bad considering three of the four teams on this road trip are ahead of Chivas in the table, and they've gone three games without a loss. Perhaps most impressively, they came from behind twice to get the 2-2 draw, demonstrating their ability to claw their way back into the game. The scoring opened in the 13th minute on a Caleb Folan goal on a good run right in front of the goal, before Chivas debutante Juan Pablo Angel opened his account for the club with a goal in the 36th minute off a well-timed pass through the defense by Nick LaBrocca. In the second half, the Rapids went ahead again when Jeff Larentowicz headed in the ball on a corner kick in the 69th minute and looked like they were going to hang on until Laurent Courtois got the equalizer in the 86th minute when Michael Lahoud sent a Magic Johnson-style pass into the box and Courtois ran onto it. It was Courtois' first goal for the club and in Major League Soccer, capping off a good night for the new Goats.
Let's look at some of the talking points coming out of the match:So far, the new players have made an impact: It is only one match, and so this could be an illusory development, but I think the addition of Angel and Courtois paid off tremendously tonight. Angel worked hard all night, which has never been a problem for him, and generally speaking, his touch was quite good. Alongside Angel, Alejandro Moreno took a secondary role which I think suits him well, and had a quiet night, but as the two strikers get used to each other they will probably be able to work together up top much better. And if Angel can regain his past form, it will likely prove good for the team overall as he will clearly be able to take the mantle as the number one striker on the field, with Moreno and Justin Braun supporting him. So a great start for Angel! Only a couple more goals on the season to go to equal his Galaxy total!
As for Courtois, I think he provided an immediate spark after coming on in the second half. Both starting wingers, Blair Gavin and Jorge Flores, had an anonymous night and have both had a few quiet games in a row. Courtois is still getting into match fitness after not playing since the spring but it looks obvious he will be getting into the starting lineup sooner or later. Even in this game, he was full of energy, played box to box, and had the most dangerous scoring chances of the second half for Chivas. I think his goal was well-deserved, and was the second time in the game when he made a run into the box. It looked like he was willing to put the attack on his shoulders and make the speculative runs that the rest of the team were too tired to do at the end. It was a very promising result and may make the club's scouts look shrewd sooner rather than later.
Dan Kennedy: Bailing out his defense since Week 3: I never want to get to the point that I ignore Dan Kennedy's contributions because it seems routine, so permit me to repeat my weekly spiel: Chivas would be at or near the bottom of the standings if Dan Kennedy wasn't the goalkeeper. Particularly in the first half, Chivas looked incredibly shaky on the defensive end, and Zarek Valentin's inability to effectively mark Folan on the first goal was an ominous start for the Goats. Unfortunately, Valentin had to come out of the game with a quad injury following that play, and Michael Lahoud, who has not been immune to defensive mistakes himself this season, was quickly thrown on the field. But Lahoud played pretty well tonight, and his assist on Courtois' goal shows he can provide an offensive contribution from time to time. But Kennedy came up time and again with key saves in this match, and Chivas fans must continue to thank their lucky stars he is playing for the Goats.
While we're talking about the defense, who's covering the far post? I had heard the Rapids' local broadcast was brutal, but this was my first time listening to a full game in quite a while. Despite the play by play guy not realizing that substituted players cannot return to the game, Marcelo Balboa (who has improved quite a bit since his disastrous stint as the color man for the 2006 World Cup) repeatedly and accurately noted that Chivas did not have a man covering the far post on corner kicks. Colorado also noticed this, and since they had seven corner kicks on the night (compared to 0 for Chivas) they had plenty of chances to make Chivas pay. And that is exactly what happened on Larentowicz's goal, as he targeted the far post and got away from the marking enough to hit the open space on the net. I know that having a player covering both posts can be problematic as it leaves a player unmarked, but it seemed like kind of a no-brainer to make an adjustment in the match, as Colorado were taking advantage of that all night. If Chivas had lost the game on Larentowicz's goal, it would have been a really stupid reason to lose, but fortunately, Courtois' goal rendered that outcome moot.
Resilience is a good trait: This was the third match all season that Chivas have come from behind to get a win or draw (they came from behind to win against the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 April 23 and came from behind to tie the Chicago Fire 1-1 July 2). In contrast, they have dropped a lead five times, so obviously the goal is to balance or surpass the habit of dropping points in favor of gaining them. As the pressure continues to mount for Chivas with the end of the season looming and the playoff race heating up, an ability to scrap for an equalizer and a point demonstrates a belief in the team and the capacity to get a result when necessary. Especially considering how poorly they played in the first half, the ability to get a point at the end of the game is a good sign for the club.
Looking ahead: Chivas will conclude their road trip with a stop in Portland in a midweek clash. Chivas beat the Timbers 1-0 back on June 1 and really need to get three points in order to keep pace in the playoff hunt. Portland beat the Vancouver Whitecaps tonight so their confidence will be up, but hopefully Chivas can overcome the PDX home support.