By: Mario Melara
Los Angeles, CA — Talk about the substitutes making an immediate impact in a match.
After just entering the game one minute earlier, Chivas USA midfielder Jesus Padilla tied the match 1-1 in the 70th minute, beating Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a wicked knuckleball shot from about 35-yards out. The lone goal by Padilla coupled with a great goalkeeping performance by backup Dan Kennedy, who once again started for injured Zack Thornton, was just enough for the goats to escape Rio Tinto Stadium with a valuable point against reigning MLS Champions Real Salt Lake.
RSL completely dominated the match, outshooting the “rojo y blancos” 8-1 in the first half alone, and 20-5 for the entire match. The only shot that Chivas USA could muster in the opening 45 minutes was an attempt by Giancarlo Maldonado in the 33rd minute from the top of the box, which was blocked by two RSL defenders.
Ned Grabavoy had opened up the scoring for Real Salt Lake in the 66th minute of the second half after coming on as a sub for Kyle Beckerman just four minutes earlier. A corner kick by RSL midfielder Espindola was poorly cleared by Chivas USA’s Justin Braun, ended up right at the feet of Grabavoy, who proceeded to laser a shot from about 20 yards outside the box. There was absolutely nothing Chivas USA Dan Kennedy could do as he saw the ball sail into the upper-left hand corner of the net.
Tonight’s result was a great measuring stick for Chivas USA’s head Coach Martin Vasquez. After valiantly bowing out the 2010 SuperLiga with a win over Mexican side Pachuca earlier in the week, the goats looked more confident on the pitch, played more collectively, and aggressively. A point on the road against the reigning MLS champions is a good sign for Chivas USA is heading in the right direction. They didn’t have many scoring opportunities, and at times the match looked like a defensive practice drill, but they did what they had to do, and made most of their minimal offensive opportunities.
The man of the match was clearly Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy who made eight huge saves. After being thrown in the fire, with regular starter Zack Thornton out due to ankle injury, he showed great command of his defensive back line, and didn’t shy away of those tough 50/50 balls in the air.
Chivas USA’s weakness continues to be the play in the midfield, and the inability to smoothly transition from defense to offensive. Granted tonight they were playing a much more talented team, but this team cannot continue to force aerial balls in the air, and hope that forward Justin Braun can get to them. It is all about possession, moving the ball from side-to-side, making the other team chase the game, and working your players into the mix. Chivas USA looked most dangerous tonight when they took more than five touches on the ball, moving it from one side of the pitch to the other, and opening up Real Salt Lake’s defense.
Chivas USA now has another major test at home next Saturday, July 31st, as the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew comes to town. With only 14 regular MLS games remaining for the goats, the time to make a move up the standings table is now. It should be an excellent match. As always, you can catch a complete wrap-up of the match here, on 90soccer.com!