Chivas USA show weakened Revs no mercy
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’ll 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.
They’ll use all these examples as evidence that New England was not in top form when they team stepped onto the field against Chivas, and they’ll 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 players available.
But all that said, crediting Chivas’ shutout victory to nothing more than a weakened New England side would be a blunder. A drastic 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.
Led by in-form captain Sacha Kljestan, Chivas dictated the run of play at Gillette Stadium right from the opening whistle. They swarmed the Revolution, using quick, sharp passing to zip through holes in the midfield, and went ahead in the 26th minute through a Jesus Padilla goal.
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 via Justin Braun, Padilla again and rookie Blair Gavin.
The game marks the first time since April 21, 2007, that Chivas have 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. The result jumps the Goats from 7th to 4th in the Western Conference.
What’s impressive about Chivas’ 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 be. 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 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 are 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.
One 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 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.