Chivas USA turnaround faces big test
THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
7:30 pm PT (FSN-W2; FSN-NE)
While a quick look at the standings might not make it immediately apparent, things have been turning around lately for Chivas USA. A loss to Home Depot Center stadium-mate Los Angeles Galaxy last time out derailed back-to-back wins, but Chivas have greatly tightened up in the back in recent weeks and are still within striking distance of a playoff place. They play host to the New England Revolution, who posted one of the epic comebacks last weekend in knocking off Western Conference leader FC Dallas to maintain pace as one of the league's elite.
REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Fabio Tovar; JAR (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: TBD
MLS Career: 90 games; FC/gm: 30.8; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 19; pens: 31
Games involving Chivas USA: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 38.0; Y/gm: 2.0; R: 0; pens: 1
Games involving Revolution: P22 W8 L12 T2; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 8; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: CHIVAS USA - OUT: GK Martin Zuñiga (R knee ACL tear); DF Alfonso Loera (L hamstring strain); Victor Arbelaez (L groin strain); PROBABLE: FW Matt Taylor (hernia); MF Jesús Ochoa (L. knee MCL sprain), DF Aaron Lopez (L shoulder sprain) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: NE: FW Pat Noonan, MF Clint Dempsey, MF Steve Ralston; GK Matt Reis (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
SUSPENDED: CHV: Thiago Martins (21 CP; through July 23)
WARNINGS: CHV: Hector Cuadros (16 CP) ... NE: Marshall Leonard (19 CP)
ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Chivas USA: 0 wins, 0 goals ... Revolution 1 win, 1 goal ... 0 draws
AT HOME DEPOT CENTER: first meeting
This is the second meeting all-time between the two clubs, and the only one scheduled this season for The Home Depot Center. The Revolution claimed victory in the only meeting in New England.
Coaches record: Steve Nicol vs. CHV: P1 W1 L0 D0... Hans Westerhof vs. NE: first game
The New England Revolution finally broke down the Chivas USA defense after dominating much of the match on April 30 at Gillette Stadium, gaining a 1-0 victory.
Clint Dempsey was once again the hero, his 88th-minute goal finally providing the breakthrough for the Revolution. Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan had done his part, turning aside a number of wonderful opportunities from the home side, before Marshall Leonard swung in a cross from the left flank where Dempsey got behind his marker to dive in and head home his fourth goal of the season.
Here's Steve Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John -Steve Ralston (Jose Cancela 63), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard - Andy Dorman - Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan
Here's Thomas Rongen's team (3-4-1-2): Brad Guzan - Douglas Sequeira, Alfonso Loera, Ryan Suarez - Ezra Hendrickson, Ramon Ramirez, Jesus Ochoa, Orlando Perez - Hector Cuadros - Thiago Martins, Matt Taylor (Isaac Romo 76).
Chivas USA lost for the third time in three Super Clásicos last Saturday at The Home Depot Center, the Los Angeles Galaxy leaving it late before claiming a 2-0 victory. Chivas USA are still in last place in the Western Conference with nine points from 19 matches, four behind expansion brethren Real Salt Lake and nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Galaxy came into the match with a six-game winless run, while Chivas USA had won back-to-back matches for the first time in club history, after a second league win and survival in their first U.S. Open Cup match.
But after a bitterly contested first hour that saw neither team give any quarter, the introduction of Herculez Gomez as a substitute for the Galaxy changed the match. Just three minutes after coming on he sent a long-range blast past Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan, off the inside the post and into the goal to put the Galaxy into the lead (64).
Then after narrowly missing on a couple more chances, he sealed the match in stoppage time, sent in alone by Naldo da Conceicao before coolly slotting past Guzan from just outside the box for his third goal in two games (93+).
Chivas USA boss Hans Westerhof made two changes to the team that thrashed Real Salt Lake 5-1 at home the previous weekend. Jesus Ochoa came into central midfield for the suspended Ramon Ramirez, while Hector Cuadros returned to the substitutes' bench as Isaac Romo came back into the team.
Here's Westerhof's team (3-3-3-1): Brad Guzan - Armando Begines, Francisco Gomez (Hector Cuadros 70), Ezra Hendrickson - Esteban Arias, Jesus Ochoa (Milton Blanco 82), Antonio Martinez - Matt Taylor (Arturo Torres 85), Thiago Martins, Francisco Mendoza - Isaac Romo
"We're disappointed because we lost points but also because we really played better than the Galaxy," Westerhof said. "We took the initiative, we spent about 80 percent of the time on the Galaxy's side of the field and had twice as many scoring chances but that doesn't matter. Only goals and points matter. I think our team gave everything it had. We had nothing else to give."
Ultimately it was a frustrating result for Chivas to play one of its best games of the season and still come away empty-handed. Chivas controlled the match throughout. "We took it to them. We had possession. We were knocking the ball around. We were organized and compact. I think we played one of the best first halves of our season so far. We played together, we battled and we took the initiative," Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan said. "But at the end of the day, you look at the scoreboard and it's not what we wanted."
Still, the loss did not completely wipe away all the momentum built up from two wins in the week leading up to Saturday. Chivas beat Real Salt Lake 5-1 a week ago and ousted USL side Charlotte from the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday with a 3-2 win.
"This is definitely another step," Chivas defender Francisco Gomez said. "We've got to keep going forward. We can't just hold back on this and say 'We should have, we could have.' We've got to keep working and put our heads up. ... (But) in the end, it's the score that matters. The last couple of weeks ... we've shown what we're capable of and we definitely showed that today. We came out playing our style of soccer and what we wanted to do."
In four matches this month, Chivas USA have allowed six goals in four games, almost a full goal less per game than the club had surrendered through the end of June. Such marked improvement seems remarkable since the club has been without Ryan Suarez and Douglas Sequeira and relying on midfielder Francisco Gomez as the point man on the defense.
Gomez has solidified the backline. In his first game at central defender since he was a youth, Gomez anchored a Chivas defense that allowed just one goal to Chicago in a 1-0 loss on July 2. The following week, Real Salt Lake scored one goal as well, this time in a Chivas 5-1 victory. Both goals came off set pieces.
"Paco has done a great job stepping in for having never played there," Guzan said. "He does a great job for us: he knows when to step, he knows when to pressure, when to drop off, he's winning balls in the air, winning tackles, organizing guys."
This week, Chivas USA will get Sequeira back after Costa Rica was ousted in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but just how that affects the three-man backline Chivas USA has been using in July remains to be seen.
Chivas de Guadalajara announced in a release on the club's official web site Monday that the two-time World Cup veteran and longtime Mexican league icon will join Chivas USA. "Juan Francisco Palencia is Chivas USA's new player," the report said. "He is fulfilling his committment to MLS with Chivas' North American brother."
Palencia, 32, scored 13 goals for Chivas since joining the club prior to the Apertura 2003 season. In Chivas' recent Copa Libertadores campaign, Palencia scored five goals and helped the club reach the semifinals. He would not be available until after the FIFA transfer window opens. Originally Palencia was set to play for Chivas USA and was announced as a member of the club last year when the club was introduced to the public. But in the winter, Palencia decided to stay in Mexico and played for Chivas de Guadalajara in the Clausura 2005 season, scoring three goals, including two against Club America.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution pulled a remarkable victory in the game of the year thus far in MLS, Taylor Twellaman completing a hat trick by scoring twice after the clock had ticked over to the 90th minute in a 3-2 victory against FC Dallas at Gillette Stadium last Saturday night. The Revolution remained unbeaten at home but are still in second place in the Eastern Conference with 35 points from 17 matches, one behind the Chicago Fire though they have three matches in hand.
The meeting of the two top teams in the league from day one this season didn't disappoint. The Revolution were unbeaten in seven home games, coming into the game off their second loss of the campaign, while FC Dallas had just three losses and were riding a five-game unbeaten run.
FC Dallas took the lead after just seven minutes, as Arturo Alvarez was raced through alone on the right. His initial shot was blocked by Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis, but it came right back at Alvarez, bounced off him and rolled into the goal.
The Revolution pulled level just before the half, a remarkable run across and through the penalty area ending with a clipped cross that Taylor Twellman headed home (44), but FCD went back ahead in stoppage time, Ronnie O'Brien collecting a return pass from Carlos Ruiz before skipping into the area and around Reis, sliding the ball home from a tight angle.
Just when it seemed FC Dallas would survive with the full points, Twellman was credited with the equalizer nearly on the stroke of full time. Shalrie Joseph's hooked a cross into the box and Clint Dempsey headed it toward goal, Twellman getting the final touch almost on the line.
Then in stoppage time, Twellman was left unmarked 12 yards from goal. Joseph found him with an early cross whipped in from the right, and he turned to side-foot past Garlick to seal an improbable victory (93+).
Revolution coach Steve Nicol received a nice gift from U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena just before the match, as three of his internationals on duty for the CONCACAF Gold Cup were allowed to play for the Revolution after not seeing any action in the USA's quarterfinal victory against Jamaica.
Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan came back into the lineup, while goalkeeper Matt Reis again returned to the Revolution as he had down throughout the event. Shalrie Joseph was the third change to Nicol's lineup returning from suspension, with Ryan Latham, Andy Dorman and Khano Smith returning to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Joe Franchino - James Riley (Andy Dorman 73), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard (Ryan Latham 58) - Jose Cancela - Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan (Khano Smith 84)
"We couldn't have started any better. The first goal they got was a lucky break off a bounce. From there, we were really chasing the game. It's tough to do that against team like that," Nicol said. "We were forcing the issue most of the time, we left holes for them, which made it easier for them. Again, some heart some skill, a never-say-die attitude, and we pulled the game out."
Less than two hours prior to the match, Nicol received word that he would have the services of Dempsey and Noonan. Both were unused substitutes in the afternoon's match between the USA and Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Revs midfielder Steve Ralston was unavailable to Nicol, as he had started and played 84 minutes for the U.S. national team.
"As soon as the U.S. put their last substitute in the game, we had a feeling we were going to get at least one of the boys. Neither of them took part in the U.S. game," Nicol said. "We've been speaking to them. Obviously, having four guys on the U.S. team is hard on us. I accept that's the way things are and there's no point in crying and moaning about it. Bruce was willing to work with us."
Dempsey said the emotions of a potential appearance in the third match of the night at Gillette Stadium were mixed. "You are down because you didn't get in the first game, but you're up because you know that you'll get a chance to play with the Revs," he said.
Reis was used to coming back into the fold for the Revolution after being with the U.S. national team, as he's been doing it throughout the Gold Cup. But he said the absence of the other national teamers has shown.
"With it coming down in the last three games, we just haven't been as solid. It's just been ties and losses. Being able to pull this one out in the 11th hour, it's just great for us. It's a great confidence boost. It just shows the kind of class and character this team has," he said. Said Nicol: "Reis had to make more saves than we would like, but he was great. "It's been tough for him coming back and forth."
Twellman was nearly taken off just before the end when he seemingly tweaked his hamstring again, but left tied for the league lead with nine goals. "I'm not all the way back from the injury. That's the frustrating part. I'm not able to do the little things off the ball that I usually can do. But at the end of the day, I'm surrounded by a great team. At the end of the game, I don't have to be 100 percent for this team to win," he said. Said Nicol: "He had some stretching after he had a chance that the goalie saved. Obviously, straight away I was thinking it was his hamstring. He didn't want to come off, and fortunately we made the right decision."
The Revolution maintained their unbeaten record at home - they've dropped just four possible points at Gillette Stadium, something the club say is important.
"Definitely, it's a big game for us. We started out slow, letting them get some goals on us. To lose at home, that would just be terrible. We've done well at home and we wanted to continue that streak - let everyone else in the league know that when you come to our house, it's going to be tough to beat us," Dempsey said. "... I think when we look back at the season, we'll look at this game as a really big game for us, especially after a loss."