Nothing like a win against a quality opponent to boost the morale of a team that's hit rock bottom. For the 2nd consecutive game, Chivas USA played the role of spoiler and this time succeeded, mustering together a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.
The two teams will meet again October 22nd in Sandy, Utah.
Here are a few key observations from Sunday's match:
The Goal: Proactive Decision Making - While CUSA still continues to approach games with an all-out defensive mentality, they've recently found ways to take advantage of opponent's mistakes. In the 47th minute, RSL defender Rich Balchan's lazy cross-field pass was intercepted by Erick Torres, who was able to get off a 20-yard chip shot. It seems as if once the ball was in the air, time stopped. RSL defenders were ball watching, heck even Cubo started his jog to the corner flag. Most thought it was either going in or going over the goal post.
For the second consecutive week, Felix Borja was able to sneak by a sleeping defense and clean up in the box. Borja's proactive response allowed him to sneak past Balchan and pounce to beat Rimando on the rebound for goal.
"I kept thinking that in the attack, the teammate always supports. When Cubo took the shot, I kept thinking that the ball could go in or it could hit the crossbar. The opposing defenders thought that it was going in, I followed the play and had the opportunity that when it hit the crossbar, I was there and I was able to knock it in." - Borja on his goal
Cubo's PK Miss - In the 64th minute, Cubo was given the opportunity to record his 6th PK goal of the season, but his slow stutter-stepping run didn't work against Nick Rimando, who didn't show his cards until the very moment Cubo takes his shot. Rimando continues to be one of best goalkeepers against the PK (He's only allowed 4 of 12 PK attempts in the past 3 years. Phenomenal.)
It was the first PK miss of Cubo's MLS career.
Attendance - It's crazy what a difference a half-full stadium makes over a nearly empty one. 12,271 may not seem like much (unless you play in Buck Shaw Stadium), but Sunday's game had an atmosphere we haven't seen in Goatland in quite a while. It was the highest attendance for a non-Clasico home game and a drastic increase from the (announced) 3,900 that showed up to the last home game against SKC 3 weeks ago.
I do know that there was a promotion by State Farm issuing out Yellow and Red Cards for the game, maybe a few tickets were given out during the team's #WeekOfGratitude. So maybe that little incentive had something to do with it. Either way the atmosphere was fantastic and I'm sure the support played a role in motivating the players to hold on to that lead.
First 5k fans at Sunday's match will get a State Farm® Yellow-Red card! Visit the State Farm tent for FREE giveaways! pic.twitter.com/xl17oWRlte— Chivas USA (@cdchivasusa) October 3, 2014
Organized Defending in the Box - While RSL dominated possession, they couldn't seem to create anything substantial against a previously-struggling CUSA defense. The organization and discipline has been leaps and bounds better than in previous matches and the resulting effective counters play off of that.
In this example, notice how organized and cohesive the defense is.
Despite the combo passing, all RSL players are accounted for and CUSA's movement, pressure, and defensive help is light years ahead of where it's been in the past.
RSL finished the game with 13 shot attempts and only 1 of those was on target (by comparison, CUSA was 6 for 11 in those categories).
Late Season Production: The closing months of the season haven't been kind to CUSA in recent memory so it's great to see a bit of production this late into the year. In 2013, the Goats lost their last 5 games by a margin of 18-2. In 2012, they went winless in their final 14 games.
Sunday's win against RSL was their first win in the month of October since 2010.
Plenty to play for now, only 2 points behind San Jose with what could be a Western Conference celler showdown on October 26th's season finale.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!