Chivas USA holds the lead with a different attitude
CARSON, Ca. – Once again Chivas USA took the lead on the pitch.
The difference this time – they didn’t relinquish it.
The Rojiblancos (4-4-5) shutout the first-year Portland Timbers (5-5-2) at the Home Depot Center Saturday night, 1-0, to give Chivas Head Coach Robin Fraser’s squad a much-needed three points.
Fraser afterwards did not gush over forward Marcos Mondaini’s game-winning goal from inside the penalty area in the 70th minute. Instead, the first-year coach emphasized his squad’s improved toughness and mind-set in the match.
“We talked about being more aggressive,” said Fraser. “A 1-0 win might seem like not that big of a deal, but it’s the way we went about it. I felt our mind-set was right and that’s the way you have to be.”
Fraser went on to say his team possessed the ball much better than in recent games and with better purpose.
As they like to do, Chivas looked to press forward on offense to create scoring opportunities. Having been denied twice from point-blank range in the first half, Chivas continued to get good looks around the penalty area.
What started with a beautiful give-and-go sequence on the left sideline by midfielder Paulo Nagamura and forward Chris Cortez, culminated with a Nagamura cross into the box for a waiting Mondaini.
The match was Mondaini’s first since serving, as he called it, a very difficult four-game suspension for being expelled against Real Salt Lake in May.
“I’ve gone through a week that has been tough and difficult,” he said in Spanish. “But with luck and thanks to God I was able to get through it. These things make you that much more mentally tough.”
Goalkeeper and captain, Dan Kennedy, who recorded his fourth shutout of the season, echoed the sentiment of being tough mentally.
“In order to be a winning team, a winning program, you need to have a winning mentality,” Kennedy said. “For us that starts with our energy on the pitch and making sure that we’re setting the tone and tempo for the game. I felt like we dictated it.”
Coming into the match Chivas had won just one out of their last five, including two ties. The expansion Timbers on the other hand, came into the match having won three out of their last five, including a tie, but still winless on the road.
The win now pulls Chivas even with the Timbers for sixth place in the Western Conference at 17 points and now puts the rojinegros in striking distance of jockeying for position in the middle of the pack. Both teams now trail Colorado by just two points and Real Salt Lake by three.
But Fraser says he is not overly concerned with point standings this early in the season. Instead he believes his team’s development and desired style of play will dictate where they end up when the playoff stretch comes.
“Points are important,” he said. “In the end they will be a by-product of our play.”
Chivas now looks to a road match against the Houston Dynamo (3-5-6) next Saturday in hopes of continuing their climb up the Western Conference.