After the dramatic 2-1 victory by Chivas USA last night in the quarterfinal round in the U.S. Open Cup, the good vibes are still going around. It wasn't always pretty, but I think at this point we can't really expect beautiful soccer from the Goats. What is starting to become more commonplace is the expectation that Chivas will pull out a win. Unlike the past few seasons, when Chivas were often dire when trying to get a late result, this team seems to have the ability to stick with a match until the very end, and Tuesday's USOC win was the latest example. It was the fourth time this year (in all competitions) that Chivas got a winner in the 80th minute or later, and it has happened three times in the last five matches.
With that, let's discuss some of the talking points coming out of the match:Bolanos, Correa starts produce mixed results: In the first 40 minutes of the match, I would argue that Miller Bolanos was the sharpest attacking player on the field. Although Correa started up top, the Colombian took a while to get into the match, while Bolanos had a goal called off in the first few minutes, after the assistant referee judged the ball went over the endline before Bolanos' tightly-angled cross to the goalmouth that bounced off Charlotte goalkeeper Clint Irwin and went in the net. But the pace couldn't be sustained, and Bolanos had to come off with what looked like a recurrent hamstring injury. The good news was that Juan Agudelo came off the bench to replace Bolanos, and while Agudelo couldn't get a goal of his own, he got another assist, his second in three matches. As a result, it is unclear if starting Bolanos was a good decision. If the injury is minor, then it's probably not a big deal. But if he's out for a sustained period, then perhaps he should have been saved until after the bye week.
Meanwhile, Correa came off a hamstring injury of his own, and he went the distance, so it's hard to know when players can manage a match and when they need to wait a bit longer. I thought Nick LaBrocca would start this one, but he didn't feature at all - maybe because Robin Fraser wanted to give other players a chance and maybe because he needed more rest after just getting game action last weekend. Nevertheless, Correa not only went the full match, but he also played his way into the game. In the first half, he looked anonymous, and he often fell back into the midfield to help pick up the ball. Although I assume Fraser gave him directions to do this, with the hope that Bolanos and Paolo Cardozo would run up top when the time was right, that's not how it went down. But with the switch for Agudelo near the end of the first half, Chivas had two proper center forwards on the field together, and it seemed to give Charlotte more to worry about in their box.
Correa showed considerable skill in both goals, but the first one in particular was one that I don't think any Chivas forward could have buried a year ago. He received a good pass from Agudelo, got around Irwin, rounded him, and still had to beat two chasing defenders bearing down on goal. And while Correa credited Juan Pablo Angel with giving him a literal "push" to get up for the winning goal, Correa's ability to get to the ball in the air and get a solid header on goal is a major credit to him. The good news in all of this is that if Correa can continue to develop, he will likely thrive, as his likely strike partners, Agudelo and JPA, will attract most of the attention and allow Correa to fly under the radar. Of course, if he has more nights like Tuesday, he may not remain an unknown in the U.S. for long.
Another great game from Courtois: I have written about how poor I've thought Laurent Courtois looked this season. His form in MLS has looked a bit off overall this year, but he seems to have clicked recently, particularly in the Open Cup. He's come up with big assists in the past two USOC matches, and he really looked sharp against Charlotte. He probably should have had a goal in the first half, when his side volley was headed for goal, but Correa tried to get a touch on the ball to ensure it was a goal and ended up heading it over the bar from about three yards out. I also think the fact that Chivas actually scored on a free kick is a terrific development. Courtois' service this year overall has been decent, not great, and often very inconsistent. But the veteran came up with a clutch set piece when it mattered, and hopefully he can turn this recent success into more tangible production in league play as well.
Melia quiets the doubters: Ok, I admit, I was a doubter of Tim Melia after the Carolina RailHawks match. I thought the backup goalkeeper looked very shaky in that match and seemed eager to come off his line when it was risky. But against Charlotte, Melia was fantastic. He had two early saves in the match, and had four in total on the night, all of them important in a tight match. He was also disciplined, coming out of goal to quash an attack from the Eagles at one point, but staying on his line to a much greater extent. He also started the sequence that led to Correa's first goal, as had the patience to distribute the ball to a teammate in a good position on the field, and it worked well. Obviously, the 2nd man in lime for the Goats won't be replacing Dan Kennedy anytime soon in the regular lineup, barring unforeseen events, but Melia is 3-0-0 this season, has only allowed two goals, and put in a very assured performance in this match.
Not to put a damper on things, but...I think the player who has arguably struggled the most for Chivas, both on the night and since he joined the team, is Cardozo. He did have a couple of shots on the night, so at least he's looking for goal a bit, but I really don't know how his skills can result in tangible results. He dribbles very well, he has good vision on the field, he has good bursts of speed, but he's never provided a goal or assist in his 1.5 year career in MLS. And unfortunately, I don't see how he's going to change that, as he seems to show the same moves every match. I also think his size really works against him, as he is easily pushed off the ball and has practically no shot in 50-50 challenges. To my mind, Cardozo should very much be considered a project at this point, and I'm not sure if he can be counted on to get involved in the scoring at all. I'm sure this means he'll go on a tear, now that I've called him out, but I would like to be proven wrong. I just don't see it happening anytime soon, unfortunately.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!