By Mario Melara,
Carson, CA – If the 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew is any indication of what this new Chivas USA team are capable of, things are looking mighty good. After multiple player shuffles midway into the season, this team finally seems to have found its groove, and maybe at the right time.
Chivas USA opened the scoring in the 37th minute when Rodolfo Espinoza (photo) played a beautiful cross from the left flank, finding a towering Justin Braun, who headed the ball past Crew goalkeeper Hesmer, into the lower-right corner of the net.The most dynamic player of the first half was Chivas USA rookie Blair Gavin. With Paolo Nagamura playing more centrally in the midfield, Gavin was pushed out wide right, and boy was he effective. His ability to be dynamic in the attack, using his speed, and building creative link-ups with forwards Maldonado and Braun, created multiple scoring opportunities for the “rojo y blanco”.
Gavin’s hard work paid off in the closing minutes of the first half when he out battled Columbus Crew defender Shaun Francis chasing down a long punt from Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy just at the top of the 18-yard box. Gavin proceeded to take one touch and then gracefully chipping the ball over Crew goalkeeper Hesmer, giving Gavin only his third ever goal in MLS play.
Chivas USA continued to stun the Crew making it 3-0 in the 53rd minute when Carlos Borja lazered a shot past Hesmer, after settling the ball from a beautiful chest pass by Giancarlo Maldonado. The 22-year old, who was signed by Chivas USA on a developmental contract back in March, was starting for the usual defender Mariano Trujillo, who was missing in action due to yellow cards accumulation.
The Crew were able to pull one goal back and spoil Dan Kennedy’s clean sheet when Steven Lenhart scored in the 88th minute.
All in all, tonight’s victory was truly impressive.
Chivas USA head Coach Martin Vasquez may have finally found a style of play that truly defines this team. The issue for this team has always been being creative on offense and finding a way of being dynamic in the final third of the pitch.
The answer might lay in rookie Blair Gavin and Rodolfo Espinoza. Gavin provides a little bit more creativity and imagination compared to his midfield counterpart Michael Lahoud. Espinoza is also very patient on the ball, makes the right decisions, and moves the ball from side to side. Secondly, if Chivas USA forward Justin Braun can continue to grow as a player and learn from his fellow world-class teammate Giancarlo Maldonado, this duo will be tough to reckon with.
By no means does this one win answer all of Chivas USA’s problem. They still sit in last place in the Western Conference standing with only 18 points, and have many more games to go, but it is a step in the right direction. Their next true test will come next Saturday, August 7th, when they head up north to face Toronto FC at BMO field. That match should be a good indicator for Chivas USA head Coach Martin Vasquez to see if this team is ready to make a push for the playoffs.
The youth, talent, and progress are all there for this team. Now let’s see what they do with it.