Chivas USA improving despite defeat
At a glance, Saturday's 1-0 defeat in New England was just another setback for Chivas USA.
But unlike many of the other three defeats -- all by the same two-goal margin -- this match was well within reach just minutes from time. Many of the same defensive errors that plagued Chivas USA during its first four matches did not occur in New England.
Chivas USA keeper Brad Guzan had a redeeming match, coach Thomas Rongen said. Fairly or not, Rongen said that Guzan has received criticism from those outside the club regarding the rookie goalkeeper's play preceding the New England match.
"(Guzan) played unbelievable," Rongen said after Saturday's loss. "For him to bounce back after giving up a lot of goals in previous games, for the youngest goalkeeper ever, to come up huge, it was just very gratifying for us and needed to keep us in the game and very good for himself."
Despite allowing his 12th goal in five matches, Guzan's goals-against average dropped almost half a goal, from 2.75 to 2.40. With every match, Guzan continues to gain experience and develop. But it is his confidence that has remained pretty much intact.
"You know, for me being 20 years old, with every game, every practice, me being comfortable in net and with the guys in front of me, my confidence increases tremendously," Guzan said. "In the past four games, guys have been able to bail me out of situations and tonight I was able to bail them out of some situations and that's just my job. They rely on me and I need to be able to come up with saves now and then."
On New England's game-winning goal, red-hot midfielder Clint Dempsey beat Ryan Suarez to a cross and buried it for the decisive strike.
"He obviously still feels that he came up short, but at the end of the day that last goal, there was nothing you could do," Rongen said.
The goal was the culmination of a match in which New England held possession throughout but for 87 minutes could not break through. For the match, Chivas USA tweaked their formation slightly.
Instead of going with three forwards as was the norm the first four matches, Rongen chose instead to fill Arturo Torres's starting spot with a midfielder. Torres was injured and did not make the trip to New England. Suarez returned from injury a week early and started along with Alfonso Loera and Douglas Sequeira in central defense. Jesus Ochoa and Ramon Ramirez were in the holding midfield roles behind Hector Cuadros, with Ezra Hendrickson and Orlando Perez as wingbacks.
"We felt we needed some numbers in there to stop (New England's midfield)," Rongen said. "At times we did and at times we didn't."
Matt Taylor and Thiago Martins started at forward while Isaac Romo came off the bench for the fifth time in as many games.
The formation switch had two effects. First, it helped slow the amount of goals the club has received. Aside from the season-opening 2-0 loss, the Red-and-White had allowed three goals in all its games. Secondly, the club yielded a bulk of the possession to New England.
"Clearly the game was dominated by New England, but to a certain degree by design," Rongen said. "We thought we could get out of here with the result, the result for us would have been a point against the Eastern Conference leaders and it would have been a positive."
In the end, the goal was just, Rongen said, given the circumstances. Still, players said they were pained having been so close to what would have been an eye-opening scoreless draw.
"We were hoping for a point and were 3-4 minutes away from it. And it didn't happen tonight," Guzan said. "We just have to regroup and get ready for next week."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.