CHIVAS USA: First impressions
March, 11, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
CARSON -- Three quick thoughts from Chivas USA's 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in their Major League Soccer opener Sunday afternoon at Home Depot Center:1. AN UNJUST RESULT
Chivas deserved more from this one, and it was seconds from a scoreless draw. Andre Hainault scored in the second minute of stoppage after a ball from Adam Moffat found him in space after a corner kick had been cleared.
It seemed at times that Chivas was playing for a 0-0 draw. Injuries deprived them of at least two starters -- winger Michael Lahoud (hamstring strain) and center back John Alexander Valencia (quadriceps strain) -- and perhaps a third, although Miller Bolaņos' absence from the 18 wasn't explained.
Robin Fraser's half-makeshift lineup was short on attackers, and the offense was stagnant all of the first half and until he switched from the 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2 after Cesar Romero came on for Peter Vagenas an hour in. There was little overlap on the flanks, and the decision to start Ben Zemanski on the right side -- rather than put Laurent Courtois on the right rather than the left and start Ryan Smith on the left -- was a little curious.
Both teams hit the goal frame -- Juan Pablo Angel volleying a Courtois corner kick off the right, near, post in the 41st minute for Chivas; Brian Ching volleying a long Brad Davis cross off the left post in the 78th -- and Angel twice headed over the crossbar.
Chivas' most important performer was reigning team MVP Dan Kennedy, who was sharp in the nets, making 1-on-1 stops in the first half against Ching and Will Bruin, parrying bullets from Moffat and Bruin in the second half, scooping up dangerous balls under pressure on several occasions and denying Macomba Kandji at the right post in stoppage just before Hainault's winner.
2. A BETTER START
Three minutes in, and already Fraser's second season in charge had started better than his first. The Goats didn't fall behind in the second minute, weren't down by two at halftime, and didn't spend the second half battling back from deficit just to fall short.
No complaints about Chivas' defensive effort until the finish. The Goats were organized against a first-choice Houston lineup, and when they bent, Kennedy was there to clean things up. Their inability to deal with Hainault's ball put a sour finish on an otherwise decent afternoon.
3. NEW CONFIGURATION
Chivas closed the upper deck on the east side of the stadium and all of the seats behind the goal line on the north end to drop capacity by nearly one-third to 18,800, still leaving ample room for the crowd that was announced Sunday, just 14,464.
It actually looked good, with Chivas banners stretched across the targeted sections. The idea is to approximate the layout of the stadium the club wants to build as soon as possible somewhere in Southern California, but the exercise isn't without problems.
Here are two, and they're related: Two of the Goats' three fan groups maintained their area of the stadium, with Union Ultras behind the south goal and the Black Army at the southwest corner. Legion Kalifas 1908, who called the seats immediately behind the north goal home, were pushed up onto the grass berm overlooking the north stands, much farther from the action -- and far less intimidating to opposing goalkeepers.