Things are getting ugly for Chivas USA. The same team that showed so much skill and creativity and potential last season has returned in 2008 looking like a disjointed mess.
New England could have fallen into a similar hole early on this season due to injuries, but strong performances from the Revolution’s reserves have kept the Revs afloat in the mighty Eastern Conference. This should leave it as little surprise that New England could go to Home Depot Center and record a road win against the struggling ‘Goats’.
The best news of the day for New England, along with the win, was the return of Taylor Twellman, who scored a goal in his 2008 debut. Unfortunately, an ankle injury he suffered later in the match put a damper on the proceedings.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Karl and John Sandate took in the action and shared their views on the match with us:
A road win makes Revs home losses easier to deal with
By ANDREW KARL
Two Saturdays ago I was livid, repeatedly standing up out of my seat to yell at the players below on the pitch. That weekend’s fixture at home against the Chicago Fire was an infuriating loss, a season low eclipsed only by this season’s previous beating at the hands of the Fire. But this weekend I was considerably more calm and relaxed. Not only is my couch much more comfortable than the plastic seats at Gillette Stadium, but I’d had a week and a day to forget about the embarassment that was May 3rd. The news that Taylor Twellman had made the trip to LA and the possibility of his season debut against Chivas USA may have helped as well.
As Twellman took part in warm-ups seemingly at full speed, I was made even more optimistic when the tactical lineups were announced. A 3-6-1 formation? Was it more of a 3-4-3? The Revs even held the shape of a 5-2-2-1 at times. I didn’t know two of the formations I just mentioned even existed. But regardless of the way the team’s shape shifted over the course of the game, Steve Nicol stacked the midfield, undeniably the most talented area of this team. Sunday’s win against the Goats showcased two pairs of defensive and attacking midfielders of a combined quality that cannot be matched elswhere in MLS. Attackers Mauricio Castro and Steve Ralston were dangerous and dynamic. They were supported by dogged play from both defensive mids, Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz. In defense, the three-man backline was solid, bouncing back from the home loss to Chicago.
With Castro and Ralston playing just behind him, lone forward Kenny Mansally seemed to relish the opportunity of being the attack’s focal point. Mansally’s movement off the ball was impressive; and not only did he score but his vision and passing ability created a scoring chance for Castro. After the half though, with Taylor Twellman making his season debut in place of Mansally, the differences between the Gambian and the American was interesting to observe. Twellman’s strength, ability to bring his support into the attack, and well timed runs were all on display. I can’t help but think that Mansally’s game will compliment the returning all-stars better attributes. Then again, Revolution fans may yet have to wait to see this pairing, as Twellman’s new ankle injury may sideline him again. Being even more paranoid, Mansally may even recieve a short suspension from the league for his two-footed stomp on Chivas keeper Brad Guzan. That’s probably a long shot, I’m not even sure that the league can hand a suspension to a player if the referee didn’t deem it a caution or ejection.
On a side note, the atmosphere at the Home Depot Center has to be mentioned. The turnout wasn’t great, but there was a band. For the entirety of the game, live music was clearly audible, coming from what sounded like a high school band at a football game or something. I don’t know if this could be heard on the Telefutura broadcast, as I watched the game on the local provider. It wasn’t annoying or strange at all, in fact the playlist of cover songs was more than entertaining. Midway through the second half, for example, The Offspring’s "The Kids Aren’t Alright" was unmistakeably followed up by Ozzy Osbourne’s "Crazy Train." Can you imagine the Fort, full of Midnight Riders and other ultras belting a Dropkick Murphy’s song? If that happens I’ll want a refund for my season ticket.
If Twellman’s injury woes continue anew, the result against Chivas will have been bittersweet. But there are certainly positives to take away from Sunday’s win, positives that we can look forward to seeing at home against San Jose this weekend. First, the combination of attackers Castro and Ralston proved creative and effective. And while alone up top, Mansally utilized the space awarded to him by Adam Cristman’s absence. I hope to see New England lineup similarly in a few days, because if tactics like this can produce consistently, Stevie Nicol may be on to something. I’m not singing the praises of one win and predicting a splendid turnaround. But a dominating home win against the Quakes could bring me close to that.
Chivas USA loses, looks completely lost doing it
By JOHN SANDATE
Wow. What an underwhelming game. Short moments of great passing and defending were eclipsed by long moments of lethargic and complacent play. I don’t know what to say about the way this team is playing right now. It’s just too easy to bash them. Then again, something must be said about, the energy and the lack of hunger. Chivas USA does not look like a team that is having fun right now.
One of the reasons I became a Chivas USA fan in 2005 was the rabid energy this team displayed. Sure, they were terrible, but they never stopped fighting. Everybody played with passion for the game. Many of these players looked like they were only playing for pride (after all 2005 was the worse possible season in the history of the MLS teams, what else could they play for?). You could see the promise of players like Panchito Mendoza. You could feel the energy of the crowd factoring in the outcome of the game.
A Mother’s Day game against the New England Revolution looked like the perfect way to get things going again despite not winning since week 2. Somebody forgot to tell the Revs, that this was the Home Depot Center and Chivas only lost one game here last year. Revolution handled Chivas USA, like the way a professional boxer handles a sparring partner. Our defense looked disjointed. Our counterattack was only good for third of the field. Galindo and Razov were mostly invisible. Pancho Mendoza was Pancho Mendoza.
That the Revs won 2-1, was not as startling as watching Chivas USA just struggle to find cohesiveness and chemistry, AGAIN. Being decimated by injuries will do that to you. Who doesn’t have injuries this season? However, this starting 11 seemed reluctant to pick up the slack for their fallen teammates once scored on. Their collective lack of discipline lead to what seemed like countless fouls and reckless tackles. The love and pride for Chivas USA seemed gone today. It was replaced by confusion. With all due respect to New England Revolution and their fans, we made them look better that they are. After Kenny Mansally scored in the 18th minute, the Goats were done. All hope was lost, expect for a few..
New players like Daniel Paladini, Bobby Burling, and Justin Braun (who scored his first goal) helped pick up the energy in the second half. These guys need more playing time and as long as everybody but the Chivas Girls keeps getting hurt, I’m guessing they will. These players looked like that passionate and hungry bunch that used to play like pirates pillaging a royal merchant ship: fierce.
There is also hope in the unity of some fans. The Union Ultras showed what they’re made of by singing and chanting all 90 minutes. Despite being in there in small numbers, they sang and chanted like the way River Plate fans do against Boca Juniors. Every little bit helps. These truly are Chivas USA’s finest fans. They reminded me of Mickey (actor Burgess Meredith) cheering for Rocky in Rocky movies while he got pummeled by Apollo Creed.
I hope some of the Chivas USA players read this: Your fans believe in you, even if you might not always believe in yourself or your teammate. This team needs to get back on its feet and remember that it’s a contender for the cup. C’mon Rocky!! Get up!!