By Mario Melara

Chivas USA entered tonight’s second group stage match of the 2010 North American SuperLiga in a must win situation. After losing their previous match 2-1 to Puebla F.C. at the Home Depot Center, Chivas USA found themselves in last place of Group A, with zero points, and if they had any hopes of moving onto the knockout stages of the tournament, tonight they needed to find a way to get any points on the road against the Houston Dynamo at Robertson’s stadium.

Unfortunately, Chivas USA once again found themselves behind early in the match, and showed the same struggles that have been affecting this team all season; lack of offensive creativity and maintaining ball possession in the midfield.

Houston Dynamo opened the scoring in the 6th minute when Adrian Serioux threaded a nice 45-yard pass thru the Chivas USA midfield and defense, finding a streaking Dominic Oduro on the right-hand flank. Oduro proceeded to cross a dangerous ball into the box, which was poorly cleared by Chivas USA defender Dario Delgado, who was actually facing his own net as he raced back on defense.  The poor clearance ended up right to the feet of Dynamo midfielder Loval Palmer just to the right of the penalty spot. Completely unmarked, Palmer perfectly placed the ball in the upper-right hand corner of the net, beating Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Things got worse for Chivas USA as just minutes later captain Jonathan Bornstein was replaced by Jesus Padilla, forced to come out of the match after picking up a knock after a reckless foul committed by Houston Dynamo defender Andrew Hainault.

Chivas USA had a great opportunity to level the scoring in the 28th minute when a poor pass by Houston
Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell skipped right to Giancarlo Maldonado who one-timed a pass to the speedy Jesus Padilla on the right-hand flank. Padilla found himself on a clear breakaway towards goal, but instead of feeding the ball back to an open Giancarlo Maldonado in the box, Padilla decided to take a crack on net, which was superbly saved by Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.

The Houston Dynamo completely dominated the first half, with five shots on goal, compared to only one by Chivas USA. The clear difference maker in the first 45 minutes was Houston Dynamo forward Dominic Oduro, whose pace and speed was ripping through the Chivas USA defense. The problems for Chivas USA continue to be their difficulties of maintain possession in the midfield for long stints of time and finding the ability and creativity to break down the opponent’s defense.

Chivas USA began the second half by making only one change, replacing midfielder Marcelo Saragosa for Salvadorian international Osael Romero, hoping to put someone in the midfield with a little bit more creativity and imagination on the ball. Chivas USA began to move the ball around the pitch much better in the first 20 minutes of the second half and began to have longer stints of possession.

The payoff finally came in the 60th minutes when a corner kick by Chivas USA Espinoza found a wide open Jesus Padilla in the 6-yard box, who calmly headed the ball into the back of the net past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.

The Houston Dynamo had a great opportunity in the 74th minute to retake the lead when a nice cross by Adrian Serioux from the right flank found Joseph Ngwenya all alone inside the box, who missed the net completely and headed the ball wide left away from Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

The final substitutions by Chivas USA occurred in the 77th and 78th minute when Ben Zamanski came in for tired and cramping midfielder Blain Gavin, and Mariano Trujillo replaced Carlos Borja. Ben Zamanski tired to make his impact immediately felt in the 81st minute when he struck an open shot from 35 yards out, but it was right at Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.

The final five minutes saw few opportunities as the Texas humidity and heat had finally taken its toll on the players on the pitch. The final result: 1-1.

A draw tonight keeps Chivas USA hopes alive of moving onto the knockout stages of the SuperLiga, although it may be relatively small. Chivas USA showed great improvement in the second half. The ability to move the ball around, and pressure the Houston Dynamo in their own half really changed the complexion of the match. Chivas USA must get back to these basics. Move the ball around. Be patient and make the other team chase you around the pitch.

Chivas USA will play their final group stage match of the 2010 SuperLiga on Wednesday, July 21st against Pachuca at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA at 7:30pm PST.

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