In a rather dull affair with an outcome that should've been expected considering both teams featured makeshift lineups, Chivas USA and the Vancouver Whitecaps left StubHub Center with the feeling that they let one get away.
Here are a few key observations from Saturday night's 0-0 tie to Vancouver:
The Borja Effect: The CUSA attack basically comes down to this: the defense punts the ball up to a forward and the opposing defense regains control. Wash, rinse, repeat. Erick Torres has done a decent job holding possession in the few times CUSA is able to gain control, but for the most part, has usually struggled doing much with it due to a thin attacking line versus a rather congested opposing defense.
Enter Felix Borja.
Advertised as a strong target forward with a knack for being effective in the air (his knick name is "the kangaroo"), Borja gives CUSA the type of player that should be able to not only help maintain possession of those ubiquitous (and highly inaccurate) CUSA long balls out of the back, but help provide an additional attacking threat that can keep defenses honest (i.e. limit those Cubo double/triple teams).
In his debut against Vancouver, Borja was able to do just that.
He led both sides with five successful aerial duels -- that's a number reserved for center backs and strong, high flying strikers like Eddie Johnson. As expected, Borja's presence up top provided CUSA with more attacking opportunities (here he is dummying the ball) and Cubo finished the game with a season-high seven shot attempts. While Borja may have been a boost to Cubo's production, its interesting to note that Cubo's previous high of six shot attempts came against this same Vancouver side in week 2.
Subbing out Cubo: With the score tied at zero and 10 minutes to play, Wilmer Cabrera made a strange move and subbed off Cubo - CUSA's only scoring threat and potential league MVP - for Ryan Finley. It didn't appear that Torres was injured and he wasn't by any means having a poor game, so the move makes very little sense especially since it was a home game against a rival that CUSA's trying to catch in the standings.
Streaks: With the loss, CUSA hasn't scored since Cubo's PK against D.C. United four weeks ago, bringing the current streak to 366 minutes of scoreless action. Being that as Cubo goes, CUSA goes, Cubo's scoring drought has also been extended to 4 games. On the other hand, they snapped their season-long 4-game losing streak.
Good Showing by an Inexperienced Backline: The defensive-minded Cabrera also mentioned his goal was to keep the shutout and the defense responded by effectively closing out the middle of the field, forcing Vancouver wide. Akira Kaji's work-rate made him quite involved on the right and his four interceptions presented CUSA with quick counter opportunities. Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Tony Lochhead did a good job in containment and got the ball out of trouble with accurate clearances. Despite the youth and inexperience playing together as a unit, the backline had a solid showing on Saturday night.
The Day Cubo Met Henry: Here's an interesting tid-bit of a young star meeting a footballing legend.
Best thing I've heard tonight came from Chivas PR rep. Told me Cubo was in elevator with Henry at all-star game and too shy to say hi.— Marc Weber (@ProvinceWeber) August 17, 2014
In case you're wondering, the 21-year-old Torres was born the year before Henry started his professional career at Monaco.
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