Commentary: Lack of depth hurts Chivas

Goats fail to ride momentum after scoring PK vs. Toronto

Chivas USA fell to their sixth road loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, dropping a 2-1 decision to Toronto at BMO field. The defeat is just the Goats’ second in ten games in all competitions and their first in MLS since June 26.

A 2-1 scoreline at BMO field is nothing to be ashamed of. Toronto haven't lost an MLS game at home since June 6 of last year, and have allowed just five goals there so far this season. TFC have suffered only five defeats in their last 40 matches in Canada. Impressive, to say the least.

That said, Chivas will regret not leaving BMO with a point. The Goats were difficult to handle all afternoon and, with the exception of one 11-minute period during which the team allowed two goals, were focused and cohesive. In the second half particularly, the Red-and-White were able to create solid chances and force TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei into a few acrobatic saves.

So what gives? Why weren’t the Goats able to find a second goal for that elusive point at BMO? They got one—a Giancarlo Maldonado penalty kick in the 65th minute—why weren’t they able to get two?

In a word, the answer is depth. Or, perhaps more appropriately, the lack thereof.

Right after Maldonado scored the team’s first goal on Saturday afternoon, it seemed the perfect time for Chivas coach Martín Vásquez to introduce a few sets of fresh legs to take advantage of the momentum the Red-and-White had just earned. A striker or two, perhaps, or an offensive midfielder who could provide some magic in the attack.

The problem was that Vásquez didn’t have those types of fresh legs. Sure, Jesus Padilla came on for Rodolfo Espinoza in the 62nd minute, but Vásquez was more or less out of options after that. He didn’t even have enough players to fill his bench; Chivas USA carried just six substitutes in Toronto, one fewer than the league-allowed seven.

Rookie sensation Blair Gavin, who boasts three goals and an assist so far this season, was left in Los Angeles with a hamstring strain. Chukwudi Chijindu and Gerson Mayén, both of whom have often been used as late-game attacking options, were both loaned to Miami FC on Friday. New acquisition Alan Gordon, who is a pure forward with 16 goals in 99 MLS appearances, wasn’t included in the team sheet.

It’s not that the Chivas  substitutes that were in Toronto aren’t capable players. Carlos Borja and Michael Lahoud have been strong in their appearances so far in 2010, and Jorge Flores can always be counted on for lots of energy and effort. Osael Romero was introduced in the 86th minute, but he has yet to
consistently produce. The problem is that none of them have the offensive prowess that would have made them dangerous additions for the final 20 minutes against TFC.

The good thing about this depth problem is that it’s solvable. Gavin will heal. Gordon will likely begin to show up on the Chivas team sheet starting next weekend against Seattle Sounders FC at The Home Depot Center. Attacking players Paulo Nagamura, Giancarlo Maldonado, and Rodolfo Espinoza, all three of whom have been with Chivas for less than a month, will continue to find their feet with their new team and become more dangerous in attack.

Plus, the recent roster changes could herald a few more acquisitions before the transfer window closes.

But for Saturday’s match, the gaps in the Goats’ bench were evident. Hopefully that will change before next weekend, when the Red-and-White will take on Seattle with a chance to make up some ground against a Western Conference foe.