Chivas USA were unable to keep their two-game winning streak alive on Wednesday as they fell to a strong Real Salt Lake side still fighting for playoff positioning. Despite the loss, CUSA wins their first season series against Salt Lake since 2007 and the battle of 2005 expansion rivals ends with a 11-15-6 edge to RSL.
Here are a few Key Observations from the match:
Joao Plata Runs Rampant - With 13 goals and 6 assists in this 2014 campaign, Joao Plata has been absolutely fantastic and if you saw Wednesday night's game, you'd know why.
Gifted with being able to pick his spots, Plata has been just as important as Javier Morales in creating for RSL in the final third. He's smart enough to hold on to the ball and make the most effective pass and has a nice mix of being hungry enough to pounce, but never in a reckless manner. Knowing at all times where the goal is, any time Plata touches the ball in the box, opponents might already be a step too late.
Against CUSA, he was able to run rampant on the left side of the field, creating enough space to get off accurate crosses and cut-ins, finishing he game with 4 key passes, 5 shots, and 1 assist. He gave Akira Kaji fits and I would've liked to see Nigel Reo-Coker drop back a bit to help since Chavez didn't provide much defensive cover on the wing.
Speaking of Chavez...
Marvin Chavez Loses His Temper - Well someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed Wednesday. In the 54th minute, Marvin Chavez was sent off on a direct red for kicking the ball in the direction of the assistant referee, moments after the ball was called out. Chavez walked off the field without incident so it's my assumption he did it intentionally. At first glance, I thought the call was a bit harsh, but looking back at the replay, Chavez actually sets up his stride so he can get a left footed ball aimed at the ref. The Honduran definitely let his emotions get the best of him.
With the suspension, we wont be seeing Chavez in the team's finale this Sunday so we may have seen the last of him in a CUSA jersey and it's an unfortunate ending to a stint that had fans excited when he scored a brace in his debut. The incident marks Chivas' 9th red of the season, (one behind league-leading FC Dallas with 10) and in case you're wondering, they've gone 0-8-1 when down a man, being outscored 20-2.
Brian Dunseth on Leandro Barrera - If this LA2 team ever comes back together, I'd like to see Brian Dunseth make his way over to LA to cover games as he consistently brings across great points in his color commentary. One issue brought up in the RSL broadcast revolved around the ineffectiveness of Leandro Barrera. Barrera has made 23 appearances this season and only has one goal (a midfield shot capitalizing on an open net) and two assists to show for it. For a guy with so much skill, speed, and technical ability, it's certainly a bit of a head-scratcher that he hasn't been able to produce considering he's playing alongside the ever-so-productive Cubo Torres.
Being that he doesn't drop back on defense, Barrera has every opportunity to shine on the offensive end and has the speed to get past defenses on counters. The problem is that he rarely goes to goal and has made himself incredibly predictable with his tendency to go straight to the endline and cross it. That may work in other fine-tuned systems, but considering there's rarely anyone open on the receiving end with CUSA, it's incredibly ineffective strategy. On Wednesday, Barrera finished the game with 11 total passes, six of which were crosses and only two of those were accurate.
Remember, Barrera's a natural forward who's been thrust into the left wing and may still be learning the position. He's even spent some time at left back while in Argentina. Whether it's the system or his own shortcomings, he's just hasn't found a way to be effective enough at any position to make a name for himself. Despite this, the kid remains incredibly talented and at 23 years of age can still make a name for himself with the right system.
The Botched PK call - While RSL was able to do whatever they wanted with CUSA in the first half, the Goats played with enough grit to keep themselves in the game and potentially steal a result. In the 36th minute, Alvaro Saborio went down with the slightest of touches and persuaded the ref to blow the whistle and point to the box. Was there contact? Sure, but not the type of contact that would normally bring a man fly forward, feet up. Upon review, the trajectory of the ball is actually behind Saborio, and knowing he had no chance at it, may have been focusing on capitalizing on contact instead. The goal broke the game wide open for RSL.
Lack of creativity in the attacking third - CUSA was never able to get anything going offensively at Rio Tinto Stadium. Aside from the occasional ineffective counter that resulted from not being patient enough, or in some cases, being too patient, the Goats were simply not creative enough to manipulate RSL's defense and create space. Here's an example of a typical CUSA attack.
With a lack of diagonal runs, combo passes, the Goat offense became incredibly predictable and stagnant, mainly relying on sending long balls into a defensively packed box. RSL was able to simply keep their lines organized, suffocate the poorly-spaced attack before it could develop, and regain possession.
Tape Delay? - If you live in LA and were able to watch the game, you didnt do so via television broadcast. The 2nd to last game in this team's existence was tape delayed until 11pm on TWC due to a Laker preseason game. No idea why this wasn't addressed ahead of time and worked out with the team's other television partner KDOC, who was probably showing an informercial, instead.
Zavaleta Injury - Eriq Zavaleta was subbed out for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado at halftime. I didnt necessarily see anything off with Zavaleta's performance in the first half, but it turns out he suffered a hamstring injury. His status for Sunday's finale remains unknown. Look for Bobby Burling to pair up with Tony Lochhead, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, or Hurtado against the Earthquakes. Who knows, maybe rookie Michael Nwiloh gets his first appearance of the season.
Que Pasa, Wilmer? - Still not getting what Wilmer Cabrera's objective is. Usually the team with nothing to lose plays with more confidence and is willing to take more risks, but this hasn't been the case with CUSA. Case in point: trailing RSL 2-0 with a little under 10 minutes left on the clock, Cabrera subbed in Agustin Pelletieri and took out Barrera - a defensive substitution. Sure, the team was down a man and Chavez's expulsion forced Felix Borja to drop down and plug the middle, but it just gives off a "we're just trying to get this thing over with" feel to it.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!