Chivas USA's Chelis: Inspiring moments require a constant search
CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA were 45 minutes or so away from being shutout in April. In their first three matches of the month: no goals.
The drought was up to 262 minutes.
And it didn't look much better in the early going against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night, much to the consternation of manager José Luis “El Chelis” Sanchez.
But then defender Mario de Luna found the back of the net shortly after the halftime intermission -- his first MLS goal -- sparking a celebration and a performance that eventually ended with a 2-2 draw with San Jose.
“We had to have an inspiring moment,” Chelis told reporters. “When that moment came, we scored. The team is always in search of that, but you’re not going to find it by just looking. It has to be a constant search.”
The Goats, who led the league in goals during March, hit a dry spell in large part due to the injuries of Juan Agudelo (strained hamstring) and Oswaldo Minda (strained quad). They had lost two straight heading into Saturday, both by 1-0 margins, and they had failed to capitalize on penalty shots in each of those losses.
So De Luna’s goal was more than an equalizer. It was a morale booster.
And it seemed almost inevitable when forward Tristan Bowen scored four minutes later.
“At the beginning of the year, we were putting in goals left and right,” Bowen said. “We didn’t necessarily doubt ourselves, but we were anxious to get going again. Once the first goal came, we got that confidence again.”
Left midfielder Jorge Villafaña seemed to be the catalyst, sending in passes on both goals that had goalkeeper Jon Busch leaning the wrong way. It was an important development, given that, through his four months at the helm, Chelis has stressed his preference to attack from the wings.
“The idea is always the same, and we spoke about it at halftime,” Chelis said. “Our intention was to have a lot of chances. We didn’t have any in the first half.”
Chivas USA had no attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes, but was more assertive in the second half to finish with seven. San Jose, meanwhile, had 21, including 15 in the final 45 minutes, and held a 15-0 edge in corner kicks.
“Three points would have been better, but we’ll take the point,” Villafaña said. “We came out with the right mentality in the second half. We couldn’t keep the lead, but we got a point.”