Hey, remember that one month when Chivas USA were good in the last nine or so? That one month is long gone by now, as the Goats crashed and burned once more, this time 4-1 to Real Salt Lake at home. Although RSL took the lead by the 4th minute and never relinquished it, Chivas remained in the match until the 78th minute, when the visitors capped the win with a pair of late goals.
As I said, Chivas gave up an early lead, an unfortunate problem that haunted them during their sustained slide at the end of last season. To me, it looked like Bobby Burling could have intercepted a through ball, but he watched it go by and Ned Grabavoy latched onto it while making a run through the Goats' high line, and slotted past Dan Kennedy easily to make it 1-0 four minutes in. The game went to halftime with that score, with RSL in control, although Chivas did get some decent chances in the first half, most notably from Miller Bolanos (making his first start in far too long) and Jose Correa.
RSL doubled their lead in the 48th minute, when Joao Plata made a quick counter on a deflected header from Kyle Beckerman and raced down to beat Kennedy. Despite the 2-0 scoreline, Chivas woke up for a stretch, and were rewarded for their attacking intent with their first goal since they were last at home April 27, when a nice cross by Edgar Mejia was somewhat luckily headed in by Jorge Villafana, who was at least in the right place at the right time, in the 55th minute. Correa almost evened up the score a minute later, but Nick Rimando was up to the task and made the save.
Chivas continued to battle, but they were pulled apart twice more. The first came in the 78th minute, when Robbie Findley, who had been remarkably wasteful prior to that point after coming off the bench, poked in a cross from Yordany Alvarez to stretch the lead to 3-1, followed up by Grabavoy getting his second of the game in the 91st minute on a run remarkably similar to that of his first goal on the night, to finish the score at 4-1.
With that, let's go through some of the talking points of the match:
Talent or tactics? Even as the game was still happening, fans and neutrals were arguing about whether the bigger problem with Chivas now is their talent on the field or the tactics used by Chelís. Clearly, this is territory that needs to be mined in greater detail, but word coming out of the press conference following the game was that the coach even made some admissions that the players aren't good enough:
Chelis: "We don't have the weapons to win."— Zac Lee Rigg (@zacrigg) May 20, 2013
Incredible Chelis press conference. Spent most of it misty eyed admitting the players at Chivas USA aren't good enough.— Zac Lee Rigg (@zacrigg) May 20, 2013
I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this press conference tonight and over the next couple days, and I think I'll be writing more about this separately during the week. But judging from immediate responses, the recent results, plus Chelís' most recent comments, indicate the honeymoon is over for the Puebla man and many of the team's fans.
Attack was substantially better: Chivas had six shots on goal, to RSL's eight, and while the visitors were far more efficient in converting their chances, the renewed intent was a good sign on what ended up being a bad night. In particular, Miller Bolaños wasn't quite at his best, but he looked as good as he has all season during the competitive matches, and getting him more minutes should be a priority. In addition, Correa looked at his best all season, and while he forced two saves from Rimando, he looks like he's getting closer to getting that first goal this season. Eric Avila was dynamic in the first half, and while he was quiet in the second, Villafaña and sub Giovani Casillas looked very good in the second half on the left. In a strange way, this was their best performance in a losing effort, perhaps all season, despite the scoreline. I can't tell if Chivas just matches up (relatively) well against RSL, before of course falling apart in the end, or if they can only bother to even halfway get up for a match once a month or so. Either way, that's not great, but in a strange way, I feel better about this team, especially on the offensive side.
Admit it, we're back in 2012: Last season, Robin Fraser insisted on a possession-based game, with variations of 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Although the defense started out well, they became a sieve late in the season, and that coupled with the inability to score anything close to a goal a game meant that the team hit the skids the final three months of the season. This season, the defense started out well enough, but Chelís dropped the possession game, has played a 3-5-2 most of the time, and scored often in the season. Now, the team can't score, and the defense is leaking goals. They are winless in their last six, earning just one point in that span. Like last season, they have dropped like a rock to the bottom of the standings. What's worse, last season, Chivas had 13 points through their first 11 games. Through the first 11 games this year? Just 11 points (h/t to ELAC for that stat). That ain't good.
We've seen in MLS that even very good teams can go through bad stretches in a season and come out the other side fine. That's not assured in this situation. The coach may be different, the majority of the players may be different, the tactics and formation may be different, but that early fight that served the Goats so well in March looks to be flickering away every week. At least in 2012, they saved the atrocious for the very end. Is it possible that we could be facing another five months of putrid results?
Vergara sighting? No. I thought Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara would show up to the game since he was in town promoting Omnilife, but Zac Rigg tweeted the following:
Correction: Jorge Vergara was scheduled to attend the RSL game but had not arrived at the final whistle.— Zac Lee Rigg (@zacrigg) May 20, 2013
Whoops. Man, this owner just gives off the impression he really cares, huh? /sarcasm
Looking ahead: Chivas travel again for a Saturday game against the Colorado Rapids. They lost to them last time out, and Colorado looks to be doing what Chivas cannot: have sufficient depth to surprise just about everybody for a sustained period. Should be interesting.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!