Tie brings relief for Chivas USA
Nestled between the Thomas Rongen Era and the Hans Westerhof Era, Chivas USA produced a simple yet fulfilling result: a draw.
Yet after the club's 1-1 draw with Kansas City, players expressed a bit of relief and satisfaction amidst uncertainty, upheaval and impending change on the horizon.
"Everyone came out and worked a little harder with Thomas (Rongen) being fired and all that in mind," Francisco Gomez said. "I don't think it was his fault. As players, we've got to come out every game and prove ourselves and I think maybe we were a little short on that."
Rongen was stripped of his duties Monday after a horrid start to the season where they had posted one win and one draw in 10 games. Rongen's replacement, Hans Westerhof, has not yet had his work visa approved which left Wednesday's coaching duties to assistant coach Javier "Zully" Ledesma.
Defender Ryan Suarez said the players dedicated the match to Rongen, who took over the role of Chivas USA's sporting director.
"These are Thomas's boys. Even though he's not with us, we played for him today and we spoke about it before the game that we were going to try and dedicate this game for Thomas because what happened with him was unfortunate," Suarez said. "This is for the boys but in the back of our minds we played for Thomas because this is his team."
From the start, Chivas USA was focused and intent on being the aggressor. The club maintained its focus and composure, even after surrendering a fluky 30th-minute goal by Jose Burciaga Jr., whose shot from distance caromed off the left post and into the net.
Chivas USA allowed just two shots on goal in the match, one in either half, as Kansas City produced relatively few scoring chances.
"You saw us dominate a German team and it's not often you see a Mexican team dominate a German team," Suarez said.
Still, Suarez said the point was well-earned.
"It was a point against one of the toughest teams to get a point against and obviously when they're on the road they're one of the ugliest teams to get a point against because they sit back, absorb the pressure and counter the (daylights) out of you," Suarez said. "That's exactly what they did and it's hard to play against a team like that."
Chivas USA shook off Burciaga's goal with an equalizer eight minutes later. Ramon Ramirez converted a free kick from 27 yards out, slipping the low, bending shot past the Wizards' wall and just out of Bo Oshoniyi's reach.
Maintaining possession and controlling the tempo of the game allowed Chivas USA's defense to dictate the match more so than the club has done in recent weeks. The club's three-man backline of Alfonso Loera, Suarez and Armando Begines were tidy in the back.
"We're definitely happy with the way we defended but it was also the change of attitude," Gomez said. "That's what we've got to be happiest about. It's tough being 1-8-1 and coming into the game and trying to look forward to the game so I think with the attitude we came out with, it just gives us more hope for the future."
With Loera, Suarez and Begines manning the back, Ezra Hendrickson and Orlando Perez were left to make runs down the right and left flanks, respectively. Antonio Martinez took over for Perez in the 45th minute and Francisco Mendoza, who came on in the 67th minute, also took turns playing on the extreme left. Forwards Thiago Martins, Hector Cuadros and Isaac Romo flooded the middle of the field while Gomez and Ramirez manned the midfield.
"This is what we're going to do," Suarez said. "This is our new system and what you saw a little of today, we're only going to improve."
Under Westerhof, Suarez said he will be the defensive anchor, a role which he took to immediately Wednesday.
"It's a new role for me," Suarez said. "They allowed me to be a lot more freer, allowed me to clean up my boys' mistakes; they didn't make to many today. It's a better role for me. It gives me a lot more freedom to do what I want in the back and control the back. Being a lot more vocal and speaking both languages helps."
In the end, Chivas USA's point from Wednesday was well-earned and hopefully provided something to build upon, players said.
"We came out with the right attitude and played forward as often as we could. We looked a bit more (dangerous) than we did before and I think that's good step that we're taking right now," Gomez said. "I don't think it was the coaching change. I think it was just us waking up and realizing that our jobs were on the line."
Luis BUeno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.