Things appeared to be on the rise for Chivas USA as they found ways to take four points in two consecutive away games. Unfortnuately, they were unable to continue the trend at home, losing 2-0 to Portland at the Stub Hub Center on Wednesday.
Here are 10 observations from the match:
1. The Defensive Breakdown - Both goals allowed were completely preventable and it's the lack of focus that led to the breakdown. As a backline that lacks skill, speed, pace, and athleticism, CUSA must be consistent in the one attribute it can control - situational awareness.
A. In the first goal, Portland striker Fanendo Adi was essentially able to get behind the CUSA backline, sandwiching himself between Bobby Burling and Carlos Bocanegra. Jorge Villafana's quick 1-touch cross left the two lumbering center backs no time to recover. Give credit to Burling for immediately reacting to Adi's run, but his failure to close out on him allowed Adi the space to receive the pass and score the goal. Bocanegra's running, but with no exact destination, urgency, or purpose.
The unfortunate part is that the attack wasn't even the result of a Portland counter. The defense had the time to organize and play with anticipation, but was just caught too high up and sleeping.
B. Portland's second goal was easily CUSA's worst goal given up all year. In what's essentially a 2-on-8 break (yes you read that correctly, there were eight defenders in front of the ball), Valeri sends a through ball right through the red carpet laid out by the CUSA midfield and defense.
Why was the gap so big? I have my doubts as to whether Bocanegra or Burling even knew Adi was lurking around for the pass. As the ball moves through the backline, Burling doesnt even attempt to stop it, because he most likely doesnt know Adi's even there. Carlos Alvarez wasn't able to plug up the pass and everyone was simply caught ball-watching.
2. Substitutions - Despite the "promising" 0-0 tie going into the half, CUSA clearly could not get anything going on offense and hovered around a possession rate in the mid to upper 20% range. By subbing in Alvarez for Marky Delgado, Wilmer Cabrera aimed to bring in a player with a bit more attacking prowess and creativity, and the move paid off as CUSA was able to have better control of the ball.
The move that sent Ryan Finley in for Agustin Pelletieri came only two minutes before Portland's second goal. Had there been a defensive presence in the middle of the field, Valeri most likely has a tougher time getting through the defense that easily.
3. Depth Chart Looking Clearer - Having started the previous five games at left back, Cabrera appears to have handed the keys at LB over to Donny Toia. With Luke Moore and Bofo Bautista gone, Ryan Finley appears to be first striker off the bench and he could start seeing starters minutes if Erick Torres gets sent back to Guadalajara. It's a bit odd he hasn't been added to the MLS Fantasy roster as of yet and could be a decent pickup if the price is right.
4. Attendance Issues - Sure, the attendance of 3,702 is pretty embarrassing to say the least, but before you start cracking CUSA jokes realize there were important factors. First, it was a mid-week game and not many people head out to those to begin with. The game time also conflicted with the Mexican national team pre-World Cup friendy against Israel. On top of that, the Kings were playing the Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs elimination game and the Dodgers had a game at home against the Reds.
For those that say Sporting Kansas City was able to pack the house against NYRB on the same day the USMNT played Azerbaijan, note the game was over before the US Nats played AND the fans knew they'd be able to watch the international friendly from the venue.
5. Minda is Missed - In their first game without the services of Oswaldo Minda, who was suspended, the Goats got picked apart at home. Both of Portland's goals had a "how did I get so wide open" feel to them and by having that necessary destroyer to pressure passers and plugging up holes, the absence seemed heavy. On the year, CUSA is 2-2-3 with Minda present and 0-2-3 without him.
6. Welcome Home? - With Wednesday's loss, CUSA extend their home losing streak to four games and haven't won at Stub Hub Center since the opening day win against Chicago.
7. Burling's Red - What's a CUSA game without an expulsion? In the 84th minute, as Darlington Nagbe plays the ball over to Adi, the ball takes a tricky bounce and in order to prevent a clean breakaway, Burling lowers his shoulder and knocks Adi off his feet. It's a clear obstruction foul and could be seen as a professional foul considering he prevented a goal scoring situation. The outburst by the Portland bench and Burling's response may have played a role in influencing the ref to reach for the red, but all things considered, CUSA was once again, dealt the wrong card. CUSA continues to lead the league with 16.2 fouls per game, 32 yellows, and 5 reds.
8. A Villafana Homecoming- It was great to see Jorge Villafana back in LA and he responded to his homecoming with a fantastic night, connecting on 92% of his passes, including the game-winning assist. He was a key part of the Timbers' offense with 72 touches in only his second start in three appearances this season.
9. Live By the Cross - CUSA finished the game with 22 total crosses yet only 2 of those were actually successful (14%). Despite the lack of success, they still prefer to attack from the wings as it's a heavy part of Leandro Barrera and Mauro Rosales' game. Considering the team sits at the bottom of the league in possession with 44.1% (only Toronto is worse with 40.8%), they're not getting very many passes off - they're last in through balls (1), second to last in long passes (49), bottom 6 in short passes (329). The interesting thing is despite the low possession and resulting low amount of passes per game, they compare well to the rest of MLS when it comes to crosses. CUSA is clearly a crossing team.
10. Avila's Near Conversion - Tremendous effort by Eric Avila on this leaping side volley effort in the 35th minute. If that goes in, it's instant Goal of the Week.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!