Win shows Chivas USA finding stride
CARSON, Calif. - Progress has come along slowly for Chivas USA, but it appears the club is finally headed in the right direction.
Chivas USA dominated Eastern Conference power New England and won 1-0 Friday, handing the Revolution just their third loss of the season.
For the Red-and-White, it was the exclamation mark in what was the club's best month in its existence.
"Hans coming in and bringing in the intensity and raising the level of play and the expectations of each individual on the team plays a role," Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. "Also, everyone's been together for so long that it's starting to show on the field, which is good."
Chivas opened July with a tough 1-0 loss to Chicago Fire and followed that gritty performance with a 5-1 rout of Real Salt Lake. Days after, Chivas USA beat USL side Charlotte 3-2 in a U.S. Open Cup match. Last week, Chivas USA lost to the Galaxy in a game which the Red-and-White dominated.
The club now sits on 12 points, just six behind Colorado entering Saturday's games. Chivas players said the match was the perfect way to cap the month.
"We wanted to win. We knew this was our time," Chivas midfielder Antonio Martinez said. "We did not want to have four days off coming out of a loss. We tried everything and it worked for us."
Martinez was perhaps the most dangerous player for Chivas. New England's James Riley could not keep up with the Red-and-White's spark plug, and defenders Jay Heaps and Michael Parkhurst did not fare much better.
"Once again you saw Antonio," Chivas coach Hans Westerhof said. "It's difficult to play against him."
It is especially difficult when Martinez gets on his game.
"I was having fun out there," Martinez said. "From the first minutes I was getting the ball in space and that's my game."
Douglas Sequeira took advantage of Martinez's standout performance. In the 38th minute, Martinez placed a perfect cross inside the box. Sequeira beat New England 'keeper Matt Reis to the ball and powered the header into an empty net.
Sequeira played his first game since leaving for the Costa Rican national team in early July.
"I hadn't played with the team in the last three games and I just wanted to prove that I belonged out there," Sequeira said. "I had a strong desire to help the team gain a victory against a good team."
Chivas dominated so much that New England managed just two shots on goal.
"It was nice. I had just one shot (actually two) in the second half, a header, and that was pretty easy," Guzan said. "I like it like that. I don't like making save after save after save and then they get a goal here and then make more saves and they get another goal. It's nice going out there, organizing guys, picking off a couple crosses and stopping some shots as well."
New England finished with a total of 11 shots but most were of the long-range harmless variety.
"For us the most important thing in the first half was who was going to adapt," Chivas coach Hans Westerhof said. "It was nice to see that, in the end, they adapted to us and they are in (second) in the league and we are at the bottom."
Westerhof said he was pleased with the Red-and-White's performance in the first half, which mirrored last week's performance.
"In the first half, like in the game against the Galaxy, we took the initiative. We played more in their half of the field than in ours," Westerhof said. "We defended well. I think (Armando) Begines and Ezra (Hendrickson) and Paco (Francisco Gomez) did a great job, especially in the first half. I don't remember one chance for them (in the first half)."
The only blemish for Chivas was the way the match ended for Hector Cuadros. In the 87th minute, New England's Joey Franchino flattened Cuadros, who had come into the match just a quarter-hour prior. Cuadros lay motionless on the
field and eventually made his way onto the bench. In the fourth of five minutes of injury time, Cuadros was sent back onto the field, sprinted twice and collapsed in the middle of the field as the match ended.
Cuadros was diagnosed with a grade two concussion and was taken to a local hospital.
"He's one of the family," Guzan said. "Anytime a family member gets hurt or is in trouble, you worry."
In the end, the match only helps Chivas in their improbable quest to reach the playoffs.
"It's huge for us," Guzan said. "It's a big three points on our side of the table. Confidence-wise, motivation and to kind of get the train rolling here right before the break is huge."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.