Chivas USA at a loss for lack of wins

As their inaugural Major League Soccer campaign drags on, Chivas USA has seemingly found different ways to fumble away each match.

D.C. United slashed Chivas USA on counterattacks in the season opener April 2 and won 2-0; New England pounced on a late defensive blunder and won 1-0 April 30; goalkeeping errors led to an FC Dallas 5-2 win May 22 and fitness failed Chivas USA two weeks ago in Chicago as the Fire scored four second-half goals to win 5-2.

Saturday night, the dreaded counterattacks and poor finishing combined for a lethal dose as Chivas USA was routed by Colorado 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.

Like the seemingly endless string of losses, the ever-present excuses are quickly becoming unbearable. Perhaps reality smacked Chivas USA in the face Saturday.

"It just comes to a point where you've got to stop with the excuses, whether our fitness is bad or whether our tactics are bad or whether the system is bad," Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez said. "We're just not good enough right now."

That final fact seemed to be hammered home after Saturday's match. The Rapids, who beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 on Wednesday, were minus regulars Pablo Mastroeni, Guy Melamed and Hunter Freeman but it did not seem to matter. Shorthanded, the Rapids nevertheless scored a season-high three goals.

Prior to Wednesday's win, the Rapids had not scored a goal since May 21 and had not won a match since a week before that.

During the week, Chivas stressed the importance of this match. Entering Saturday, five points separated the Rapids and Chivas. But the enormity of the match seemed lost on some, players said.

"Today was a final. (Chivas coach) Hans (Westerhof) repeated that several times throughout the week that this game is like a final," Suarez said. "You saw what happened today. You didn't see much heart. You didn't see much fight, at least to me."

Colorado became the sixth team to score at least three goals on Chivas USA. However, Westerhof did not solely blame the backline for the goals.

"It's not a problem with the defense. You have to defend better with the whole team," Westerhof said. "When you play against a team like Colorado and you don't put pressure on the midfield or you lose balls so quickly, then it's not easy to defend. We had to take all the risks ... and they defended with a lot of people in a (small) space. We had to defend almost in our half of the field. That's not so easy."

The way things are going -- Chivas has allowed 21 goals in its last eight games -- it will take an offensive outburst to win some games, Chivas' Matt Taylor said.

"If we're going to keep playing this way then we're going to have to start scoring goals because we're surrendering way too many to win a game 1-0 or 2-1 at this point," Taylor said. "We're going to have to win 3-2 or 4-3."

Taylor entered the game for Isaac Romo, who limped off the field in the 45th minute with a strained right hamstring. Early in the second half, Taylor careened a shot off the crossbar that would have equalized the match.

"We're getting chances. It's just not clicking for some reason," said Taylor, who played for just the fourth time since April 30. "A lot of times (our chances are) not clear-cut like our opponents' who get counterattacks and get one-on-one breakaways whereas our chances our crosses and balls in the box. Occasionally we'll slip a through ball. Right now, it's just a major problem."

It was no mystery how the Rapids would play: in their typical style, the Rapids dropped plenty of numbers behind the ball and looked for a counterattack. Coupled with Chivas mistakes, the scheme worked to perfection.

"They made the first goal and then it was difficult. That was exactly what they wanted," Westerhof said. "They did well. There's nothing I can change about that because we made the mistakes."

The Rapids' strike pair proved too much for Chivas to handle.

"Playing man-to-man against Cunningham and (Jean Philippe) Peguero, two of the fastest guys in the league, you're going to get exposed," said Suarez, who came on in the 60th minute for Jesus Ochoa. "We're not the most athletic. We're not the fastest team in the league. (Cunningham) used his strength well today and he found seams. We just didn't do a good enough job."

The path for Chivas path does not get much easier from here on. Wednesday, the Red-and-White visits FC Dallas; Saturday, the club plays at Kansas City before returning for a July 2 match against Chicago.

"This league is hard and every team is going to be hard for us. We haven't shown anybody - we haven't shown ourselves - that we can beat the best and until you beat the best, you're going to be looking up," Suarez said. "We're all tired of losing. None of us likes to lose. The only positive out of this is that we play on Wednesday and we can clear our minds and start to
focus on the opponent come Wednesday."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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