Here are 10 Observations from the game:
1. Minda's PK Blunder - One of the biggest reasons for CUSA's four-game winning streak was their ability to prevent teams from capitalizing on their errors because they weren't making very many to begin with. After doing a good job of keeping DC from creating any real chances, Oswaldo Minda's blunder in the 24th minute not only allowed them to get an early lead, it made the remaining 65 minutes an uphill battle.
There was absolutely no reason for Minda to lower his shoulder and try to win the ball inside the box, especially considering Chris Rolfe still had an unfavorable angle and Minda had defensive help behind him. In the end, Minda's solid play in the middle is occasionally nullified by his reckless tendencies and Sunday night's incident was just the type of error that CUSA cannot afford.
2. The defense has improved, the set piece defending hasn't - Despite the 3-1 scoreline, CUSA continues to do a decent job in open play defending, demonstrating great organization and tight lines. Their biggest issue is that they continue to struggle defending set pieces - 2 of their 3 goals against DC came from dead ball situations, while 3 of their 4 goals allowed during the streak have come from set plays.
3. Oh, captain, my captain - On DC's final goal, Luis Silva must have been salivating when he noticed CUSA's backline roll out the red carpet to get his shot off. Once Silva made his run past Eriq Zavaleta, Zavaleta appeared to have a quick moment of hesitation, probably asking himself "is Carlos Bocanegra gonna get him? Oh man, I hope Boca gets him."
What made things a bit more frustrating was the lack of defensive recovery from Bocanegra. After his initial challenge on the ball, he essentially slows down to a walk, watching Silva position himself to give DC a 3-0 lead.
4. The reality of the win streak - Four-game win streaks that include a three-game shutout streak are hard to come by, especially in a league with so much parity. While CUSA played relatively well enough to get those 4 consecutive wins, their low possession rates, low offensive output, and the benefit of squeaking out 1 goal wins against struggling teams provide enough evidence to tell you the results were the product of circumstance and heart. Sustaining the streak against DC, who was by far the toughest test CUSA has faced in 5 games, would be a feat in and of itself.
5. Sturgis for Minda at Halftime - It was a bit odd to see Minda subbed out at halftime considering the experience and resourcefulness he provides in the middle of the pitch. But considering it happened after he took down Chris Rolfe in the box for the PK, it almost appeared as if Minda was punished.
One thing to consider was that Minda had already committed 3 fouls at halftime and it was evident Rolfe's speed and creativity was continually giving him problems in the midfield. While Nathan Sturgis did commit a yellow only minutes after being substituted in, he did provide bit more of a offensive presence and had tripled the output Minda had in the same amount of minutes played (45 passes to Minda's 15, including 2 key passes).
6. There was no Cubo PK controversy- Cubo's 6th goal in 6 games didn't come and go without a bit of controversy. Some felt that Cubo's stutter step during his run up was worthy of a violation and should've been retaken. According to Law 14 of the FIFA rule book, that is not the case.
Feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, feinting to kick the ball once the player has completed his run-up is considered an infringement of Law 14 and an act of unsporting behavior for which the player must be cautioned.
Since Cubo made his reverse stutter at the start of his run and never stopped moving, it was in fact, legal.
7. Streak Ends - While the loss hurts, it was CUSA's first defeat since May and first road loss since April 26 against San Jose. On the other hand, a separate streak still exists - CUSA has currently found a way to score in each of their 6 previous games. (In case you're wondering, after their last 4 game winning streak in 2008, CUSA went on to go winless in their final 3 games. Although the schedule doesn't get any easier, I have faith that won't happen this time around).
8. Kaji makes his debut - In his debut, Japanese international Akira Kaji provided solid defensive support and did a good job helping on the attack. He was clever with the ball and contributed immediately, as evidenced by his key pass in the 81st minute. He demonstrated surprising pace for a player of his age and worked well with Mauro Rosales on the right flank via his overlapping runs.
9. The Zavaleta struggle - Last week Zavaleta missed his mark on the set piece that gave Vancouver their only goal of the game. This week, his inability to effectively clear out a set piece ball allowed Perry Kitchen to give DC their second goal. On a different occasion, Zavaleta nearly headed a ball into his own goal. Just as is the trend with CUSA as a whole, Zavaleta shines in open play (he had 7 interceptions) but has struggled defending set pieces.
10. Looking ahead - The Goats will continue their 3 game road trip and potentially start a new streak at Colorado (jet lag, high altitude and all). On the bright side, CUSA has fared well against the Rapids in 2014 as they are undefeated in each of their 3 encounters, preseason included. Colorado will also be without speedy forward Deshorn Brown.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!