Chivas USA Impressive in Win Over Revs

Despite New England's player shortage, discounting Goats would be a mistake

MAy 5 vs. New England team picture

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It would be easy to write off Chivas USA’s 4-0 victory against New
England on Wednesday, but it would be a mistake to do so.

Critics will say that the Revs were without injured stars
Taylor Twellman and Matt Reis. They will point out that New England attackers
Kheli Dube and Joseph Niouky were both serving suspensions after earning red
cards against Dallas last weekend. They’ll highlight the absence of six-time
MLS all-star Shalrie Joseph, who is currently on an indefinite leave of absence
from the league.

They will use all of these examples as evidence that New
England was not in top form when the team stepped onto the field against Chivas
USA, and they will be right.

Indeed, the Revolution were so shorthanded on Wednesday evening
that Head Coach Steve Nicol didn’t even have any choice in whom to put on the
team sheet: New England only had 18 healthy,
available players.

All that being said, crediting Chivas USA’s shutout victory
to nothing more than a weakened New England side would be a blunder, an
oversimplification. Because the truth is, while most would probably have picked
the Red-and-White to get three points on Wednesday, the Goats did more than
just win – they dominated.

Lead by in-form captain Sacha Kljestan, Chivas USA dictated
the run of play at Gillette Stadium right from the opening whistle. The
Red-and-White swarmed the Revolution, using quick, sharp passing to zip through
holes in the midfield, and went ahead in the 26th minute with a goal
from Jesus Padilla.

New England went down a man
two minutes later when Marko Perovic was red-carded for an elbow on Ben
Zemanski, and from there the Goats really took control. They would score
another three times, with Justin Braun (33’), Padilla again (48’), and Blair
Gavin (80’) making the tallies.

The game marks the first time since April 21, 2007 that
Chivas USA has scored more than three goals in a game. The quartet of scores
ties Red-and-White with the Galaxy for most goals scored in MLS this season. The
result jumps the Goats from 7th to 4th in the Western
Conference.

What’s impressive about Chivas USA’s victory is not the fact that
they got it, but the way in which they got it. From top to bottom, the team saw
solid performances from every one of its players. Rather than play down to a
scattered Revolution side, the Goats were classy in almost every aspect of
their game.

Jesus Padilla netted his first brace for the team and is
finally playing at the level he should. Kljestan put in another strong
performance as midfield marshal and team captain (You paying attention, Bob
Bradley?). Justin Braun seems to have finally found the nose for the goal that
he was often missing last season. Zach Thornton was quick between the sticks, making
good saves on Pat Phelan in the 20th minute and Kenny Mansally in
the 90th. Rookies Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin continue to be a
nuisance to opposing midfielders.

To put it simply, Chivas USA is finally starting to look
like a formidable team. A team that wins big when it’s supposed to. A team that
isn’t a patsy on the road. A team that other teams don’t want to deal with.

Part of this may be the fact that Head Coach Martín Vásquez
seems to have finally found a solid starting XI. After a couple of strange
experiments with the lineup in the first few matches, Vásquez has settled on a
group of core players on which the team can rely to produce. This, in turn, has
helped with confidence and chemistry on the field.

The interesting thing to consider, however, is how the team
will handle the return of some of its injured players. As Maykel Galindo, Osael
Romero, and Ante Jazic return to full fitness, will they automatically get
their spots back? Will the team’s newfound cohesion survive the introduction of
new signing Jose Macotelo?

These questions are yet to be answered, but serve as
temperaments to those who may want to laud Chivas USA as the new favorites for
the 2010 MLS Cup. Because while the Goat’s now three-game unbeaten streak is certainly
another step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go to
November.

Until then, the Chivas USA faithful can wish for more
performances like the one on Wednesday night.