Chivas USA loss leads to examination

MLSsoccer.com's Jeffrey King breaks down Goats' defeat to FCD

Chivas USA’s 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday at Pizza Hut Park was the Goats’ seventh this season on the road, and dropped them four points behind the Houston Dynamo for 8th place in the Western Conference.

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As the Red-and-White prepare for the final third of an admittedly trying season so far, MLSsoccer.com offers five points taken from Chivas USA’s latest loss.

Zach Thornton still has it

After sustaining a high ankle sprain in July 2009, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Zach Thornton has returned to the pitch with a vengeance. He earned a shutout last weekend against Seattle in his first game back and made a handful of jaw-dropping saves on Saturday to keep Chivas USA within reach of Dallas. The Goats’ chances of reaching a fifth consecutive MLS postseason will improve dramatically if the 36-year-old veteran can continue his strong form.

Chivas USA have tactical issues

With all the personal changes that Chivas USA has endured this season, head coach Martín Vásquez has had a lot to think about in terms of tactics and formation. And while he has gone a long way toward creating some good chemistry on the pitch for the Red-and-White, Saturday’s match exposes the fact that he still has work to do.

Why is natural striker Justin Braun, who leads the team with seven goals, playing on the right flank while new signing Alan Gordon takes his spot up top? Why has Jonathan Bornstein played four positions this season (right and left back, right and left midfield), but only really looked comfortable at one? These are questions that Vásquez and his staff must answer as the team moves forward.

The Costa Ricans know offense

Quick quiz: who had the best chances for Chivas USA on Saturday? If you answered Darío Delgado and Michael Umaña, give yourself a gold star. The Goats’ Costa Rican center-backs were dangerous in the attacking third, with each putting a header on net (Umaña in the 77th minute and Delgado in the 78th) that was only barely saved by Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

It’s obvious that the pair know their way around a penalty area, and Vásquez would do well to make sure they’re both pushed forward for set pieces and corner kicks in upcoming games.

Nagamura has a cannon

Red-and-White midfielder Paulo Nagamura has always had a good shot from long distance. Connoisseurs of Chivas USA’s offense will happily remember last year’s season opener against Colorado, when the Brazilian announced himself to the rest of the league with a pair of long-range goals against the Rapids.

On Saturday, he finally reminded the Goats faithful of what he is capable from outside the 18-yard-line. Nagamura blasted shots in both the 10th and 65th minutes that certainly made sure Dallas was paying attention. Look for Nagamura to continue testing goalkeepers as he settles back in with the Red-and-White after a six month stint with Mexican side Tigres UANL.

Carlos Borja is legit

At just 22 years old, Carlos Borja has a long career ahead of him. And judging from what MLS has seen of him thus far, it may be an illustrious career indeed. Borja has been a revelation in the Chivas USA defense this season, stepping in as a replacement wherever he was needed.

On Saturday, he was inserted at right back and quickly shut down pesky forward Brek Shea. Yes, Borja perhaps could have done a better job on the cross that resulted in Dallas’ game-winning goal, but his size and speed is a huge asset to a Goats backline that can sometimes feel small. He’ll be a first-choice defender in no time if he continues to improve the way he has this season.