Goat Notes: LaBrocca making his mark with Chivas USA
Is the glass half-full or is it half-empty for Chivas USA?
Two matches last week helped the Rojiblancos earn four points with a win against the San Jose Earthquakes and a draw at Sporting Kansas City. While the team was able to snap a near month-long winless streak, the Goats were unlucky not to earn six points on the week after former Chivas de Guadalajara striker Omar Bravo equalized for Sporting just moments from the end of the match.
Here are the three observations from Chivas USA’s draw with Sporting KC:
LaBrocca making case for All-Star inclusion
After arriving joining the Rojiblancos with little fanfare, Nick LaBrocca is quietly making a claim for All-Star bid with a solid first half of the season.
On Saturday, LaBrocca scored his second goal in eight days against Sporting KC. The goal was his sixth of the year, drawing him level with players like Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski and Colorado Rapids forward Conor Casey. It was also a goal that will live in the history books, as it was the 10,000th goal in MLS history across all competitions.
During the match with Sporting, LaBrocca was at the forefront of most of Chivas’ forays toward the net, using his work ethic and speed to try and crack the defense.
Following the draw, head coach Robin Fraser was eager to speak about how important LaBrocca has become to his team’s hopes.
“I was hoping somebody would ask me about Nick,” said Fraser after the match. “I’m very excited about the fact that I feel that we have the best young emerging player in the league. He’s such an intelligent player and he gets himself shots.”
Fraser starting to tinker with formation
A week after experimenting with changes to the Goats' midfield in practice, Fraser was forced to tinker with the club’s playing style during the game. With Sporting KC eagerly pushing along the flanks for the equalizer, Chivas USA’s midfield diamond was overrun by the Graham Zusi-led attack, which forcing Fraser to make a change.
At around the hour mark, Simon Elliott and Blair Gavin were pulled for veteran wingers Francisco Mendoza and Jorge Flores, who were able to bring width into the Rojiblancos midfield. The move was the first time all season Chivas USA were forced into a change of formation midway through a match. Although Sporting were eventually able to break through, Fraser was optimistic at his team’s ability to adapt.
“We just felt that their outside players were getting too much time and freedom, so we tried to increase pressure with a new formation,” he said. “At times it worked well, but I think we’re still a young team that’s growing and there are always decisions that have to be made in tight games and tough situations.”
Kennedy, Pearce providing glue for developing back line
After 92-and-a-half minutes of holding the Sporting attack, it took an errant clearance by rookie defender Zarek Valentin to give Bravo a chance to score the equalizer.
The goal may have come sooner if not for many spectacular saves by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and a stout defensive performance by Heath Pearce. The experienced duo has been instrumental throughout the first half of the season, and both were able to come up time and time again to prevent Sporting from breaking through.
While Kennedy and Pearce excelled, Valentin and right back Michael Lahoud struggled to deal with SKC's athleticism and speed. This week, it will be up to Lahoud and Valentin to show more when they face off against the explosive New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano