Although Chivas USA played a bizarre game not too long ago, Sunday's match against the Colorado Rapids was truly one of the strangest matches you'll ever see in MLS. The match itself ended 1-1, but the score was almost beside the point. After Carlos Alvarez gave the Goats an early lead with a terrific goal in the 5th minute, Chivas' semi-decent play in the first half, coupled with Colorado's seeming incompetence, made it look like Chivas could really make a go of another win at home.
Then the crazy train started. In the 27th minute, Steve Purdy blocked a corner kick with an overhead palm, basketball style, when he saw he was beat by German Mera. He got a yellow card, and of course, a penalty was called. Deshorn Brown, who scored a PK in the first meeting between these teams this year, took it again, and Kennedy saved the penalty! It was like the soccer gods were smiling on Chivas at that point!
But wait. In the 33rd minute, Gabriel Farfan just sort of purposely stepped on Shane O'Neill's knee, not really going for the ball or anything, and he really gave no protest to the straight red card he received. And really, he shouldn't have, because it was a dirty, dirty play.
At that point, it looked like Chivas were doomed. But they made it through the first half without conceding, and then, in the 49th minute, Tony Cascio received his second yellow of the night, reducing the numbers to 10 v. 10, for a high boot in Marky Delgado's direction. To be fair, Cascio's yellows looked pretty soft, but from a Chivas perspective, it was another terrific turn of events.
So, sides are even once again, and the game was pretty open for nearly 15 minutes, although the Rapids had several good chances that they couldn't convert. In the 63rd minute, the absurdities continued, as Tristan Bowen was given a straight red card for spitting on/at Chris Klute, right in front of the assistant referee. So it was back to 9 v. 10 for the last half hour of the match. Colorado, who looked pretty bad all night, honestly, got an equalizer in the 80th minute when Martin Rivero hit a header unmarked in the box off Klute's cross.
Whew. Did you get all that? Let's go over some talking points.
Once again, Chivas can't escape the reds: We've seen some games this season where Chivas draw unwarranted or soft red cards. We've also seen games where Chivas have drawn deserved red cards (I'd argue this game was one of them). On one level, we can parse them out, but in general, this red card situation has gotten completely out of hand. I'd have to check to see, but it seems like Chivas are getting more reds under Jose Luis Real than under Chelís, despite the apparent shift in philosophy, where Real does not tell the players to hack opponents down as if their lives depended on it. In fact, Chivas were only called for seven fouls on the night, to the Rapids' eight.
I realize red cards are a part of the game, and sometimes even necessary. But picking them up at such a rapid clip, like Chivas have done of late, is not acceptable. Now the hard part - how can red cards be reduced on this team?
Kennedy with a monster night: Kennedy makes six saves on the night, including the save on the penalty, keeps a clean sheet for 80 minutes against the odds, and yet he still concedes a goal late and the Goats only get a point. Yes, a point is better than a loss, by a longshot, and the performance the remaining players put on the field is commendable. But it's got to be yet another gutpunch for DK, who played his tail off, worked well with his teammates for all but one play, singlehandedly kept the Rapids off the board in the first half, and still couldn't manage the win and clean sheet. I say this so much, but Chivas are lucky to have DK in goal.
On lineups and substitutions: I've been pretty critical of some lineup patterns Jose Luis Real has had, and this game wasn't different. I think going with Carlos Borja (a defender) and Gabriel Farfan as holding midfielders makes little sense, especially with two holding mids, Edgar Mejia and most importantly, Oswaldo Minda, sitting on the bench for this game. The fact that Minda still isn't playing is appalling (and I'm not exaggerating in using that word), and while I see considerable limits to Mejia's game, I still think he's better than Borja and Farfan in that spot, since it's his actual position and all.
And while the night couldn't have gone to plan, with the red cards, Real's substitutions and timing were maddening. Jorge Villafana came on first, replacing Eric Avila 66 minutes in (which I guess you could justify with the logic that Villafana has much more defensive experience). Then Real sat on his hands until Colorado scored, when he put in Burling three minutes after Rivero's equalizer, and threw on Mejia with a minute left in regulation for Soto to waste time. Ugh. So much ugh.
Look, I'm not a coach, I know it isn't easy to make the decisions that everybody scrutinizes. But when you are under siege for essentially a half, your team has had a penchant for giving up leads, and you didn't start the game with any proper defensive midfielders, why wouldn't you move to tighten up the defense more? You know you are unlikely to really have much of an attack, and there will still be a couple guys who could get something going if the ball bounces right. In addition, you have another defender on the bench, why not bring him on? Same idea, you can get another body in position to weather the storm.
Would it be fair to say Chivas would have won if Burling, Minda, and Mejia came on, and entered at an earlier time? No, we can't know for sure what would have happened. But I think their chances for three points would have been much better under that scenario.
Looking ahead: Chivas have next weekend off, but they follow that bye with a midweek game against FC Dallas August 21. Carlos Bocanegra's red card suspension will be over by then, but Farfan and Bowen will be out for sure. At the moment, Chivas are tied with 2005 for their worst-ever season points total. The next quest? Make sure they get at least one more point on the year. That match against Dallas could move them out of history's basement with plenty of time to go.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!