The downward spiral continues as Chivas USA gives up 3 first half goals, leading to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the struggling Houston Dynamo.
Here are 10 Observations from Saturday night's game:
1. Avila, The Secret Success Story - Lost in this mess is how well Eric Avila has playing. It appears he's long past the hesitancy that comes with learning a new position and has developed a sense of confidence. On Saturday, he was all over the field and did a good job of filling the stat sheet: two key passes, 81 percent passing accuracy, five tackles, four interceptions, five crosses, eight recoveries. The key point to look at here is that Avila dominated the team in touches with 85 (20 more than any other player!) for the fourth game in a row. Good for Eric, but does CUSA really want the focus of its game plan going through it's right fullback?
2. Goals Can Be Deceiving - Go ahead and tally another PK goal to Cubo Torres. While a goal is indeed still a goal regardless of how you score it, it just shows that relying on PKs just isn't sustainable and demonstrates that Cubo's goal scoring output is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Cubo has scored 7 of the team's 9 goals but since 4 of those 7 have come via PK, can we honestly say with confidence that he's on par with the season Clint Dempsey is having?
3. Barrera Was Allowed to Roam - With midfielder Mauro Rosales out, Leandro Barrera was given the same sort of "roaming winger" role that Rosales has previously played. Unlike past weeks when Leandro would gravitate to the corner, Barrera utilized space all over the field. Barrera still finished with eight of the team's 23 crosses, but that led to very little success.
4. Wilmer Calling Out The Team's Aggressiveness - What does CUSA look like without Rosales? What does your car look like without a transmission? It's worthless unless you have the energy to push the sucker, and in this case, CUSA lacked the drive to get over that hump. Once Cubo got CUSA on the board, coach Wilmer Cabrera thought the team got complacent. "We just started to walk, we didnt even put pressure on them," Cabrera said after the game. "They showed character and personality and we didn't." This is a complete change from the hustle and "never say die" he voiced in the first few games. So what is it, should we be worried that the team has entered a stage of complacency with all this losing? It's a long season and Cabrera needs to find a way to get this team intrinsically motivated.
5. The Red Wedding Continues - Tim Melia's expulsion marked Chivas USA's third straight game with a red card and it's no surprise they currently lead the league with four. While Marky Delgado's red against Seattle was due to a questionable (I'll call it soft) challenge, Dan Kennedy and Melia's reds can be considered professional fouls to make up for mistakes in the backline. That's concerning since not only is our backline conceding goals, but it's also putting other players in the position of sacrificing themselves to limit the damage.
6. Flashbacks of 2013 - Last season, the team went undefeated in the preseason and followed it up with a strong start to the regular season (3 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss in the first five games). In those first five games, they only conceded more than 1 goal once (a 3 goal loss to CLB in the opener) and had a respectable goal differential of +3. Then, all of a sudden, the wheels fell off the defense. The team went on a 14 game winless streak with a GD of -21. The same thing appears to be happening in 2014, albeit with a different cast of characters. Through our first four games, the team had a record of 1 win, 2 draws and a loss, never giving up more than a goal except in our opening day win against Chicago. Since that 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Galaxy, CUSA have been outscored 11-3 and, as mentioned earlier, are currently on an eight game winless streak.
7. Teams continue to attack CUSA's biggest weakness - Houston exploited CUSA's backline the same way San Jose did. They found ways to get the ball to attackers in the hole or behind the slow CUSA backline via accurate longballs & throughballs on the counter. It's the very reason teams are getting so many offside calls against the Goats.
8. Burling Struggles - If Dan Kennedy had a night to forget last week, this week the hex fell on Bobby Burling. The CB had a hand in 3 of Houston's 4 goals: In the first goal, Burling looks like a bee chasing a kid around a grass field, following the ball at the expense of situational awareness. In the second goal, Burling found himself 1v1 with Giles Barnes in open space and was stuck in no man's land, giving Barnes too much space to get a shot off. On goal four, he practically provided Will Bruin with a well-placed assist. While Burling is a dependable piece when in an organized, experienced backline, he turns into a liability when a broken defense allows teams space on the counter.
9. Ok, Maybe Bofo shouldn't start - Despite Adolfo Bautista's lack of playing time, I haven't shied away from singing his praises as I've seen enough from him to know he deserves more minutes. With Rosales out, it made sense to finally see him out there in the starting lineup and it was now a matter of how long Bofo's lungs could last out there. It turns out they only lasted an unproductive 45 in which Bofo had 10 touches and seven passes (four of those passes were at midfield and directed to the defense). That being said, it was a tough game for any offensive player to get involved. With the season looking like it's getting away from CUSA, it only makes sense for Cabrera to place Martin Rivero a notch above Bofo on the depth chart since Rivero's youth makes him a better long term prospect.
10. It's OK for fans to start freaking out, but consider the circumstances: Things have not looked good for the Goats and fans are starting to vent their frustrations. Fingers are starting to point at the front office (for not getting quality players), at the coach (for making questionable lienup decisions and playing a bit defensive). That's completely acceptable, but there's a few things that need to be taken into account:
- Injuries and suspensions have not permitted CUSA to field a consistent 11 and, as a result, chemistry and identity have been slow to develop
- CUSA has played a tough schedule
- The team is only nine games old and it takes time for a product to develop when there's new players, players learning new positions, and a rookie HC
- As a team that sits near the very bottom of team spending, the roster could use a few good players. The problem is that with the team still looking for an owner, the club is best suited to not commit itself to larger contracts as a flexible roster is a selling point.