Perhaps Chivas USA are planning on moving out of the Home Depot Center a season too late? It sure seems like it seven matches into the 2012 season, as the Goats have lost all four home games this year by a 1-0 scoreline. Saturday's opponent was the Philadelphia Union, who have failed to impress in the early part of the season, but a 40th minute backheel goal by Freddy Adu made the difference as Chivas lost yet again 1-0. Although Adu's skill was on full display as he capped off the play, Michael Farfan did the hard work on that play, as he dribbled past a few Chivas defenders. James Riley slipped as he tried to clear the ball, and Adu poached the goal. And while Chivas only gave up a goal, they didn't actually score, and Chivas fans are getting restless after another home loss.
Oh, and the Union lost two players, Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan, to straight red cards in the second half following gruesome tackles on Ryan Smith and Riley, respectively. While both Smith and Riley continued playing, it was revealed after the match that Riley's shinguard was cracked in half on the collision. Scary stuff, but it looks like both players avoided serious injury.
Let's discuss some of the talking points coming out of the match:
Good possession, very poor finishing: Chivas held two-thirds possession on the night. They did well on the flanks, and Ryan Smith and Miller Bolanos were both dangerous in sending in crosses and many set pieces. But there were few solid chances on goal, and while playing the ball on the ground isn't easy, I think Philadelphia was well-prepared for crosses being bombed into the box. Chivas still haven't shown that they have a player able to take a defender on and go towards goal. While many of the new attacking players have skill and can take defenders on, there weren't really any truly dangerous chances for Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who still looked shaky despite having a pretty easy night. It's really too bad Chivas couldn't capitalize on that.
It was a physical game, and Chivas were on the wrong side: Obviously, the red card offenses by Daniel and Gabe Farfan showed how physical the Union played on the night, but Chivas are often quite physical in their play themselves. Still, while the red card offenses were on the extreme end of the spectrum, the strategy worked, and Smith and Bolanos in particular seemed bothered by the regular hard fouls. On top of that, Robin Fraser claimed in the press conference after the match that Oswaldo Minda was punched or elbowed in the face during the first half, and that was why he was subbed out early in the second half. While Chivas didn't react to the physical nature by lashing out (for the most part), the Union got under their skin and disrupted the Goats' play.
Perhaps a more tangible example of this is the clear disparity in duels won: Chivas won 39 percent to the Union's 60 percent. In Chivas' last couple of victories, they have been winning the majority of duels, but while Philadelphia seemed content to clog up the field, they did it very well. And they got the goal against the run of play, which played into their strategy. Overall, though, Chivas were not able to deal with that gameplan well enough to overcome it.
Forward is still a big question mark: Alejandro Moreno put in another workmanlike shift, but his skill set is limited - he cannot be expected to carry the attack week in and week out. Juan Pablo Angel came on in the 63rd minute, and while he shows he is still on top of the pecking order, with several strong headers that seemed to go all around goal, he wasn't as sharp on the night as he normally is. That's obviously because of his absence for the last five matches because of the concussion suffered in the preseason. Assuming he won't have any setbacks after tonight's match, he needs to get match fit fast, especially for the home games, because the streak of scoreless futility is becoming a big problem.
Still, beyond JPA, the depth chart among the forwards seems to be very much unclear to me. It is safe to assume Fraser will continue to take turns with the rest of the strikers until they demonstrate who belongs in which slot in the pecking order.
The West is Still (Collectively) Best: The loss puts Chivas in seventh place in the Western Conference, with only the Portland Timbers sitting below them. But if they were in the Eastern Conference, they would currently be in fourth place. While I must emphasize that there are still a lot of matches left this season, it still looks like the West is superior to the East overall, and earning a playoff spot will require a months-long dogfight. Chivas had a setback tonight, but if they can reverse course next week against the Colorado Rapids (on the road), that should help show Chivas are on their way to compete for a place in the postseason. They need to straighten out the home form, of course, but they need to take care of next week's task first.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!