By: Mario Melara
Carson, CA – Soccer can be such a cruel sport. Just go ask Chivas USA.
Having lost its last six games prior to tonight’s match, it seemed like nothing would go right for the club. They’ve made all the necessary personnel changes possible, moved players into different positions, and even switched to multiple formations, but ultimately when you’re playing this bad, sometimes, you just have to back to the basics.
“Our goal is to win and turn around, we were unlucky a couple of times tonight. I am pleased with the effort. We need everybody to give 100 percent,” said Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez.
Yes, effort. Such a simple notion in soccer, but when you’re on a major losing streak, it becomes not only a battle between you and your opponent, but also between yourself.
The first change for Chivas USA in tonight’s match was simple; putting the best players possible on the field. That meant moving Jonathan Bornstein, who normally plays in defense to midfield, and starting Ante Jazic, the Canadian international, at left-back. Also part of the changes to the formation was starting the duo of Justin Braun and Jesus Padilla up top, and replacing Mikel Galindo, which in turn made room in midfield for Osael Romero.
These tactical changes almost immediately paid off. In the 5th minute Chivas USA midfielder Michael Lahoud sent a shot from just outside the box, which deflected off a Philadelphia Union defender, and just went over the crossbar.
However, Philadelphia opened the scoring in the 21st minute when an aerial pass from Roger Torres, was flicked on by Sebastian Le Toux, to a wide open Danny Mwanga on the right-hand side, who buried the ball in the back of the net.
Then, when I surely thought Chivas USA was bound for a seventh straight loss, something happened. What I saw for the next 25 minutes was absolutely amazing.
Not frazzled by the early goal, Chivas USA began to play an elegant, collective style of soccer that showed glimpses of how dynamic and strong this team can be. The team would control long stints of possession, moving the ball from side to side, stretching the Philadelphia Union defense, and creating some great scoring chances, most notably in the 35th minute when a pass into the box was headed by Jesus Padilla that ricocheted off the crossbar.
The equalizer then came for Chivas USA in the 42nd minute when a poor clearance ball from the Philadelphia Union found its way to Blair Gaven who was right outside of the box, and he lazered a shot past goalkeeper Chris Seitz, into the lower right part of the net.
The second of the half match lacked the excitement that we saw in first, as both teams had trouble keeping possession. The only real scoring opportunity for any team came in the 65th from Fred of the Philadelphia Union, who had a clear and open breakaway opportunity, but was stopped in his tracks by Chivas USA goalkeeper Zack Thornton.
I was impressed by the effort of Chivas USA. A tie at this point is almost as good as a win. If Chivas USA can show the same intensity and effort that they showed in those key 25 minutes of the latter part of the first half, then this team is going to be great.
Coach Martin Vasquez attributes the fall off in the second half due to a lack of patience.
“We were not patient. Very impatient. A tie at this point is a plus.”
Chivas USA will also be looking to improve on tonight’s performance with the addition of other possible players to the team. Currently training with the team is Giancarlo Maldonado, the 27 year-old Venezuelan international striker. Other players are also on Coach Martin Vasquez’s radar, but not yet disclosed.
Chivas USA’s will now hit the road and their next match will be on Saturday, July 10th against the Kansas City Wizards.