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Substitutes to the Rescue: Chivas USA 2, Montreal Impact 1

CARSON, CA - JUNE 20:  He did it: JPA came off the bench and got the winner Wednesday  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - JUNE 20: He did it: JPA came off the bench and got the winner Wednesday (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Chivas USA picked up a much-needed win Wednesday against the Montreal Impact at the Home Depot Center, as substitutes Jorge Villafana and Juan Pablo Angel connected for the winner to give the hosts a 2-1 edge. Chivas took the lead early in the first half, but conceded an equalizer just before halftime. After a rather-lethargic restart, it appeared that Chivas would either have to hang on for a draw or even concede a second goal to Montreal, but Robin Fraser's double substitution to bring Sueno and JPA on paid off.

The scoring opened in the 14th minute when Cesar Romero, getting his second start of the season in league play, sent a corner kick from the left into the box. Juan Agudelo stuck a leg out in traffic, and the ball bounded towards goal. On its way in, the ball went off Alejandro Moreno's thigh and into the goal, so Moreno got credit for the goal, his second this season, and the clincher to make him the all-time leading Venezuelan scorer in MLS (how's that for a piece of trivia?).

Chivas seemed to control the tempo of play through the first half, but Montreal played a counterattacking game that lead to many decent chances. They found the breakthrough in the 42nd minute when Davy Arnaud sent a low cross from the right into the box, and Felipe Martins got on the end of it and shot it past Dan Kennedy. On the local broadcast, Eric Wynalda did a good job breaking down the defensive mistakes that lead to the goal, but as he noted Chivas played good defense for the most part on that sequence. In the end, Martins did a great job getting into the exact spot to capitalize on the chance.

After a second half in which both teams looked sloppy and tired as the game wore on, Villafana made a good run with the ball in the 82nd minute into the left corner and beat former Chivas defender Zarek Valentin before swinging a cross into the box. Angel took the header from a long position, as he was equal with the penalty spot, and the looping header caught Montreal goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts unaware and he couldn't scramble back in time to make the save. It may have been a bit lucky, but the Goats made the plays and they were effective on the night.

Here are some talking points coming out of the match:

Not perfect, but a much better performance: There are a lot of mitigating factors for the sloppiness tonight. It was a midweek match. Chivas are missing more players by the game due to injury. But they bounced back in this game and while they weren't dominant and Montreal fans will probably feel the result is a bit harsh, Chivas did what they needed to do to win. What is most important is that with two more games coming up in the next six days, Chivas fully regrouped and moved on following the bad performance last weekend. As I've been writing lately, good teams win ugly sometimes and good teams overcome bad games quickly. Chivas did both of those things in this match. Does this make Chivas a legitimately good team? Not yet, but if they continue the form of the last two months for the rest of the season, then we can start talking about them as a bonafide "good" team.

Fraser's substitution strategy pays off: Following the loss to Real Salt Lake, I complained about Robin Fraser's substitution policy, as it seemed like he waited too long to make any changes in that match. As this match wore on, I got antsy and complained again on twitter about it, asking if it was time to make some substitutions. I got several responses from Chivas fans, all of whom agreed that Fraser needed to bring subs into the game. Fraser didn't bring his first sub in until the 77th minute, when he brought JPA and Villafana on simultaneously. I thought it was too late, and feared Chivas would run out of steam. Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch brought on Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi before Chivas' first subs, and both of Montreal's subs seemed like they would make the difference in the match. In particular, Nyassi's speed unsurprisingly seemed to give Chivas' defenders problems.

But guess what? Fraser was vindicated. Not only did his team get the victory, but those first two subs linked up on the winning goal. I'll say it: I was wrong. Credit to Fraser for making the shift - it paid off in a big way.

Cardozo and Romero had mixed returns: Ever since he arrived from the Galaxy, we've been told that Paolo Cardozo has the best technical skills around. In his appearances for Chivas, he's had an infuriating habit of making incredible runs with the ball through the midfield to the edge of the box, at which point he runs out of steam or ideas and loses the ball. Following his good showing in a reserve match against San Jose, when he scored two goals and earned the penalty on the third, it seemed maybe he turned a corner and was going to start shooting and perhaps score some goals. To me, tonight was more of the same from Cardozo. While he was dangerous in midfield and seemed to provide some concern for Montreal's defense, it appears he will not and cannot take a shot. There was one chance where he was about to shoot, but he lost the ball at the last moment, and overall, he needs to keep working. Also, there was a moment when he sent an impressive-looking pass into the box, and the commentators on the broadcast were impressed, but the teammate who got on the end of it, Oswaldo Minda, had no chance of getting a clean shot off. So the neat-looking pass really didn't properly set up a teammate.

Meanwhile, Romero had a somewhat better night. He got an assist on the first goal, and his corner kick service was very good through the first half. As the game wore on, however, he seemed to get tired and his set piece delivery got more and more erratic. He also had a huge shot in the second half that narrowly missed when he slammed it a little too hard. He had an open goal and while he needed to do work in order to get it in the net, it appeared for much of the half that miss would prove costly. I think Romero showed promise, and again, his corner kicks might give him a crack to wiggle into the lineup on a more consistent basis. Still, he probably needs to start scoring if he wants to actually lock a spot up with the first team.

Looking ahead: Chivas will travel to Texas and face FC Dallas Saturday. Dallas have been struggling, but they didn't have a midweek game, so they may be more fresh for this match. Chivas will want to get another winning streak going, and they'll want to get necessary points against a Western Conference foe. At the moment, the Goats are only a point out of the last playoff spot - they need to keep the push alive!

What do you think? Leave a comment below!