Chivas USA sought to reverse their slide Sunday with a match against D.C. United, but they came up short yet again with a 1-0 loss. Oft-maligned midfielder Branko Boskovic, coming off the bench for United, scored his first career MLS goal in the 64th minute to give the hosts the win, while Chivas are off to yet again wonder what could have been. To add insult to injury, the Goats now sit second from last in the total league standings, after the Philadelphia Union won today. That midseason feeling of hope is long gone at this point.
The match started out slowly, as both teams seemed content to hang around in the middle third of the field, although D.C. had all of the early chances. Chivas didn't really have any attacking intent until the last 10 minutes of the first half, but while they had numerous crosses and set pieces, they had only one shot on goal all match. The shame of it was that Bill Hamid seemed like he was there for the taking, as Shalrie Joseph sent a deflected shot that nearly beat Hamid in the 36th minute.The really regretful moment came in the 54th minute, when Miller Bolanos, who once again led the team in shots (although they weren't exactly accurate) sent a nice centering pass to Casey Townsend, and the rookie forward wasted too much time before taking a shot, which was then easily blocked. Townsend had another chance late in the game, off a cross by Nick LaBrocca, but he couldn't keep the tricky shot on frame.
Meanwhile, D.C. got the winner in the 64th minute, when Lionard Pajoy had the ball on the righthand edge of Chivas' box. At first, Jorge Villafana and John Valencia were both working to keep Pajoy from dribbling the ball into the box or sending off a clean cross, and they were able to stymie him. But then Valencia moved back into the box, and with only Villafana covering him, Pajoy easily put a cross into the middle of the box. Boskovic and Danny Califf both dived to get to the ball, but Boskovic got his head on it and put it past Dan Kennedy. Of course it was a guy who never scored before who beat Chivas. Of course.
With that, time for the talking points:
No more moral victories: Listen, Chivas are on the worst form in the league at the moment, and while they have had moments of bad luck, playing well and still losing isn't good enough anymore. Surely, this team played hard for the entire match, and they only had one truly bad moment. But unless they get all their bad luck out of the way this season so that they have only good luck next year, the faint praise of applauding a quality effort rings hollow. This stretch is too brutal to expect Chivas to turn everything around and get back on track with five games to go. I'm sure many would take a draw, and certainly, that's better than another loss. But if Chivas want a true victory, they need to actually win a game. It's simple, I realize, but this losing streak seems endless at this point.
Kennedy back on track: In the last couple of months, there have been games where Dan Kennedy's body language has been brutal. I don't blame him, as he's gone from being the leading goalkeeper of the year candidate to a good keeper who's stuck on a bad team. But there have been some games in which it looks like he's mentally exhausted, and his sharpness has looked a little suspect as the goals kept rolling by him. But he was fully up for this match. He was sharp all game and had four saves on the night, all of the usual DK caliber. On social media, Kennedy was back to getting full props from neutrals, and it was good to see him return to form in this game. I was afraid he was going to increasingly go through the motions as the final games were played, but Kennedy looks to be back in top form.
Oh, Valencia: Surely, it was a team effort that allowed Pajoy to send the cross to Boskovic and allowed Boskovic the diving header, but can we finally admit John Valencia is prone to making devastating mistakes? By my quick count, he's cost Chivas between six and 10 potential points this season, based on his mistakes alone. If Chivas had six more points, they would be in seventh place in the conference and only four points out of the playoff hunt, and if they had 10 more points, they would be level with the last playoff team and only out of the playoff places based on goals scored. Soccer is a team sport and again, he's not the only player who has disappointed this season, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But considering the expectations heading into the season, the fact that Rauwshan McKenzie has played better than Valencia this season on balance, and yet Valencia continues to play and make mistakes is a massive disappointment. How can he be counted on to defend competently at this point?
Looking ahead: Chivas host Real Salt Lake next weekend. The teams have split the season series, but can Chivas replicate the early season magic?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!