By Mario Melara

Carson, CA – Chivas USA entered their opening match of group play in the 2010 North American SuperLiga with high expectations. A quality road win in their last MLS match against the Kansas City Wizards, having already reached the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and making three quality additions to the team in the last couple of days, it looked like the hot streak train would just keep on rolling.

Well, it only took six minutes for Puebla F.C. to bring Chivas USA back down to earth.

Once again, the lack of midfield possession and careless giveaways continues to haunt Chivas USA.  Puebla F.C. midfielder Andres Olivera took a poor pass by the Chivas USA midfield and played a great give-and-go with Gabriel Pereyra. Completely open in the middle of the 18-yard box, Olivera struck a half shot, half pass across the mouth of goal, which ended up past Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who was frozen by the great dummy play of Puebla F.C. forward Mario Ortiz.

Chivas USA had begun tonight’s match with what they feel will hopefully become a more cohesive and stable starting eleven on the pitch. Tonight’s match showcased all three recent signings by Chivas USA. Giancarlo Maldonado, the Venezuelan international started at forward while both Paulo Nagamura and Rodolfo Espinoza looked to solidify the midfield with their veteran expertise.

Like many Chivas USA fans, I too was so ecstatic with all these recent signings and transactions within the club that you forget to realize that it is going to take some time and matches for this team to play in sync and begin to form their own distinct style of futbol.

Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez (photo) commented on how the additions of the players like Giancarlo Maldonado are going to need time to get match fit.

“Giancarlo is a very technical player. He has the qualities of a goal scorer. If he gets fit he’s going to help us and be a factor.”

Chivas USA did have a great opportunity to even the match in the 31st minute when a nice lead pass by Giancarlo Maldonado found wide open and streaking Jonathan Bornstein on the right hand side, who unfortunately could do no better than shoot the ball wide right. Jonathan Bornstein would get another crack on goal in the 42nd from about 25-yards out, but his shot was straight at Puebla goalkeeper Alexandro Alvarez.

Frustrated by the lack of possession in the second half, Chivas USA began to commit hard and reckless fouls. Puebla F.C. began to really dominate possession and it seemed like they just had a quicker and more collective team than Chivas USA. The breakthrough for Puebla F.C. came in the 62nd minute when another giveaway in midfield led to a counter-attack. Puebla F.C. midfielder Pereyra found a streaking Alejandro Acosta on the right-hand flank, who then thread a great pass inside the box to Alvaro Gonzalez, who struck it past Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Chivas USA did manage to get one goal back on a corner kick from Espinoza in the 85th minute that found Umana, who calmly headed it into the back of the net.

The better team won tonight. Chivas USA once again showed their lack of creativity, inability to maintain possession, and the capacity to transition from defense to offense in such a manner that would create great scoring opportunities.  Every play orchestrated was too predictable and without much imagination. When you play some of the best club teams in CONCACAF, its going take much more to win that what Chivas USA showed tonight.

Chivas USA’s next match of the group stage will be against the Houston Dynamo on July 18th at Robertson’s Stadium in Houston, Texas.  We should see early on in that match whether Chivas USA is taking this SuperLiga tournament seriously, or if in fact it is just a great way to get matches and fitness in for the new players, and instead really focus on the MLS campaign.

In all reality, I hope it is the latter. At the end of the 2010 MLS campaign, what is going define this team and what shall we remember as fans? Is it going to be how Martin Vasquez helped turn this team around, or will it be that we had a great showing in the SuperLiga tournament?

I thought so.

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