CARSON -- Chivas USA on Saturday night offered more of the same thing it's been offering all season long: solid defense, not enough chances -- not nearly enough goals.
None, in fact. The scoreless draw with Vancouver, a most reasonable result, was the sixth time the Goats have been shut out in 10 Major League Soccer home games this season, and coach Robin Fraser's dissection of the match had a familiar ring to it.
Chivas (5-7-5, 20 points) came close to scoring four times in the final 20 minutes after creating virtually nothing for the first 70 in another frustrating evening in a season full of them.
“I thought we were probably too passive at the beginning of the game,” Fraser said, echoing his comments from several games past. “We want to be able to push the tempo and push the pace, but in the first half things were too slow. ... The second half I felt the urgency was much better. Certainly the second half of the second half, I thought it was very good.
“We created a number of chances. Ultimately, we need to be able to finish one of those. ... More than anything, we came out of it as a group realizing the urgency we saw in the second half is something we need to see more of.”
The Goats were fine defensively, preventing Vancouver (8-4-6, 30 points) from creating anything particularly dangerous. The Whitecaps used a numerical advantage in midfield, made more pronounced by defensive midfielder Oswaldo Minda's absence because of his second yellow card-accumulation suspension of the season, to find their way to Chivas' box four times in the first 15 minutes, but they, too, lacked urgency.
“We did have decent looks from the edge of the box and didn't shoot, so that was the biggest thing we talked about in the locker room,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. “If you have half a chance, you have to shoot. Even if it doesn't go in, it might deflect, it might come back off the goalkeeper. Who knows?”
Chivas matched up with Vancouver in the second half, switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1, and that was more of less it for the Whitecaps' offense. With rookie speedster Darren Mattocks sidelined with his own yellow-cards suspension, the 'Caps lacked the pace to stretch the Goats' superb backline.
The chances for Chivas started arriving in the 72nd minute with back-to-back free kicks from Juan Pablo Angel and Paolo Cardozo. Angel, after Cardozo was tripped just outside Vancouver's box, sent Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon sprawling to make a save, but he bobbled the ball with Jose Erik Correa in position to tuck it home. A defender knocked over the end line, and Davide Chiumiento's hand ball following the ensuing corner kick gave Chivas another free kick just outside the box.
Cardozo fired toward the upper-right corner, and Cannon parried it away.
Ben Zemanski should have netted the winner in the 88th minute, but he volleyed James Riley's cross over the crossbar, and two Jorge Villafaña chances in stoppage were knocked aside by Cannon, Gershon Koffie and Jay DeMerit.
Chivas' approach at the end was impressive, but the inability to draw upon the needed urgency more consistently is a source of frustration.
“I think a lot of it is confidence, determination, urgency,” Fraser said. “As those things grow, we see our group get better and better. Within our group we have answers, we just need to continue to work to find them.”
That's been the story, and the spiel, since the season started. The Goats have only 11 goals in 17 games, by far the worst rate in MLS, and they're in a fierce race with Colorado (22 points), the Galaxy (20) and Portland (19) for the last of five Western Conference playoff berths. And FC Dallas, after another draw Saturday, is just six points below the line.
“You continue to stress [the need for urgency],” Fraser said. “You continue to highlight the difference between when you see an urgent performance and when you don't. There are a lot of experienced professionals on this team, and they know as any of us, we can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but certainly you can do everything that you can to stress it. ...
“We have this quality in our group and we’ve seen it. Not as often as we’d like to see, but we’ve definitely seen it.”
WORTH NOTING: Chivas has been held scoreless in three of its last four league games. ... Back-to-back shutouts gives Vancouver nine in 18 games. They also kept Chivas scoreless in a 1-0 victory at HDC in March. ... Chivas has posted four shutouts. It has been shut out eight times. ... First-choice left back Ante Jazic was scratched with a groin strain, so French winger Laurent Courtois made his backline debut. He lasted 45 minutes, then left when Fraser brought on Ryan Smith and switched systems for the second half. ... Fraser said the switch to the 4-2-3-1 was made because “we didn't have enough in the midfield in the first half. As a result, they were able to penetrate us in probably too many ways. I thought we needed to thicken up midfield a little bit, and by putting three in the middle it made a difference for us.” ... Vancouver's best chance came in the 13th minute, when Eric Hassli forced a shot through traffic in Chivas' box, and Sebastien Le Toux was left 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. He couldn't get his touch straight, and Riley stepped in to clear it away. ... Chivas took 11 of its 16 shots in the second half, but only two of them were on frame. ... Chivas rookie Casey Townsend celebrated his 23rd birthday on the bench. Both sides made just one substitution.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Chivas USA 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Laurent Courtois (Ryan Smith, 46); Paolo Cardozo, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski, Jorge Villafaña; Juan Pablo Angel, Jose Erik Correa. Unused subs: Blair Gavin, Tim Melia, Alejandro Moreno, Cesar Romero, Casey Townsend, John Alexander Valencia.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Joe Cannon; Lee Young-Pyo, Martin Bonjour, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey; Gershon Koffie, Alain Rochat; Barry Robson, Sebastien Le Toux, Davide Chiumiento; Eric Hassli (Camilo, 69). Unused subs: Jun Davidson; Greg Klaazura, Brad Knighton, Carlyle Mitchell, Michael Nanchoff, Russell Teibert.
Yellow cards: LaBrocca 45, Rochat 63, Hassli 64, Koffie 87, Califf 93+.-
Referee: Juan Guzman. Att.: 11,659.
Records: Chivas USA 5-7-5, 20 points; Vancouver 8-4-6, 30 points.