Despite being unbeaten in New England since 2009, Chivas USA didn't have a lot of things going for them going into Saturday night. A 3,000 mile cross-country flight from LA to the East Coast, the challenge of playing on a turf field, the already afflicting injury bug, and a demoralizing five-game winless streak, CUSA had an uphill battle to climb. Like an action-packed movie with no plot, the game play was pretty open but neither team could seem to finish. In the end, all it took was a nice finish by Lee Nguyen to help NER sneak away with a 1-0 victory against the Goats at Foxborough.
Here are some Key Observations from Saturday night's loss:
Peaks and Valleys, But Mostly Valleys - When CUSA gets in funks, they really do get in funks. By now we all know that they have now gone 456 minutes without scoring a goal (or if you want to see it a different way, 456 minutes since Cubo's last goal) but it all becomes so strange considering the sudden downfall comes on the heels of the 5 game undefeated streak from June to mid July that included 3 consecutive shutouts.
It's no coincidence that Mauro Rosales' playing time was drastically cut at the same time the scoreless streak started -- when he dressed but did not play against Colorado on July 26th -- and his absence has clearly affected the already struggling CUSA offense. The Goats have now gone 21 of 24 total games with 1 goal or less and have failed to score in 9 of those.
The Rosales Effect - With fan favorite Rosales now in Vancouver, Saturday became a question of who would step up and fill the creative vacancy in the midfield. As expected, the task fell on the shoulders of the two wingers - Nathan Sturgis and Eric Avila - meaning CUSA would be focusing most of their attack out wide. Oswaldo Minda did a decent job in finding offensive opportunities in the middle (including this nifty key pass to Felix Borja), but for the most part, was never able to get involved in the final third.
Unfortunately, no player on the current roster fits the bill so unless CUSA fills that need with the now available DP slot, expect more of the same going forward.
AJBeast - Filling in in what's become a revolving door of backup CBs, Andrew Jean-Baptiste took his turn in partnering up with converted LB Tony Lochhead in plugging up the middle. The 22-year-old defender made his presence known and used his strength, aggressiveness, and anticipation to effectively shut down NER attacks before they could do any damage. On the other hand, his clearances could use work and toning down his tendency to rely on inaccurate long balls could help out in improving the team's overall possession (he finished with an overall pass accuracy of 34%).
Borja's Encore Appearance - Last week, Felix Borja showed us how he can contribute to the attack as a target forward who can win balls in the air and flick them to teammates in open space. Against NER, he wasn't as effective in the air as he was against Vancouver (0 aerial duels won opposed to 5 last week), but we saw Borja find ways to get himself more involved in trying to score, including utilizing his strength on this turn and shoot attempt.
Nguyen Wins it - The only thing that kept CUSA from earning their 2nd consecutive scoreless draw was the brilliant play by a trio of NER players that led to the game's only goal. As Diego Fagundez switches the ball over to the right, Kelyn Rowe first touch passes the ball and immediately sprints past Donny Toia and across the top of the box. Daigo Kobayashi's quick first touch flick makes matters worse for the Goat defense and throws Lochhead off balance.
As Agustin Pelletieri decides to pressure Rowe (and whiff on his clearance attempt), he essentially gives Nguyen enough space to find his shot and send in the game winner. While CUSA has to be a bit cleaner on their close-outs, this was more about New England and their brilliant combo passing than on any CUSA defensive issue.
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