Entering Saturday's game against New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA had not played in two weeks and the effects were visible as the club struggled to find its rhythm in a scoreless draw with the Red Bulls.
Chivas' last game, a 2-1 loss to the rival Los Angeles Galaxy, left the club stunned and two weeks' worth of training could not help the club regain the form present in the first three games.
For the first time this season, Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley reached into his bench to plug a hole in the starting lineup. Missing for the Red-and-White were defender Claudio Suarez, who is with the Mexican national team, and midfielder Jesse Marsch, who rolled his ankle earlier this week. Carlos Llamosa and Brent Whitfield replaced Suarez and Marsch in the starting 11. Also out on Saturday was John O'Brien, unavailable due to a strained calf.
Early on, Chivas showed the rust of not having played since April 15. In the midfield, Marsch's absence was also felt as the quartet of Juan Pablo Garcia, Sacha Kljestan, Whitfield and Francisco Mendoza seemed discombobulated and without rhythm. Passes were not crisp as Chivas struggled to string together any meaningful possession. Chivas attackers were also struggling to stay onside as the club was whistled with a handful of offside calls in the early minutes.
The first time Chivas went deep into the Red Bulls' defensive third was in the 11th minute, when Francisco Mendoza sent a pass from the left flank into the area. Standing near the penalty spot, Francisco Palencia left the ball for Whitfield but the rookie failed to get anything behind his shot, which rolled harmlessly wide of the net.
Ante Razov had his first shot at the quarter-hour mark but his left-footed attempt from 22 yards out sailed well over the crossbar.
Brad Guzan was solid in the early going. He looked comfortable plucking crosses from mid-air as well as scooping up long-distance shots.
In the 21st minute, Garcia nearly created something out of nothing. He had the ball on the left flank with Red Bulls defender Marvell Wynne draped all over him. Garcia did well to shake off the young right back as Wynne collapsed to his knees after Garcia danced around him. Garcia's low cross, however, went right into the hands of Red Bulls goalkeeper Tony Meola as Palencia watched helplessly at the top of the six-yard box.
On the Red Bulls' next trip down the field, Edson Buddle broke free of Chivas' backline and walked in alone on Guzan. He unloaded a five-yard blast that Guzan stopped with his chest.
Chivas had the best chance of the night to score in the 25th minute but Mendoza could not convert. Standing well outside of the penalty area, Garcia slipped a well-placed through ball to Palencia, who darted around a defender on the right side of the area. Palencia sent a cross to the far post where Mendoza stood completely unmarked. Mendoza, however, sent his shot well over the gaping net.
In the 41st minute, Chivas USA nearly broke through again. Pushing up from his left back slot, Jonathan Bornstein jumped on a cross from the other side of the field deep inside the Red Bulls' penalty area. He sent a soft rolling ball to the front of the area where Razov stood but the Chivas striker could not control the ball as Meola was sprawled out on the ground in front of him. A Red Bull defender cleared the ball out of bounds.
Near the end of the first half, Llamosa went down in apparent pain. Llamosa stepped in front of a long-distance shot that hit him squarely in the groin. After nearly a minute writhing in pain, however, Llamosa seemed fine and continued playing without any apparent short-term effects.
New York looked dangerous in the opening minutes of the second half. Chris Henderson found himself alone on Guzan but the second-year 'keeper knocked Henderson's shot out of bounds with a hockey-style butterfly save. Chivas quickly answered with a counterattack as Razov beat a pair of defenders to the front of the Red Bull goal. Meola, however, went to the ground to stop Razov's hard right-footed shot.
Garcia and Palencia broke in on the Red Bulls' goal. Garcia outran a pair of Red Bull defenders but instead of shooting from the right side of the penalty area, he tried to slip a pass to the middle of the area in Palencia's path. However, Meola charged off his line to stop the scoring chance.
Lawson Vaughn broke inside Chivas' penalty area in the 67th minute. He unleashed a rocket that Meola stopped but the ball rolled in front of the net. Before Garcia could get to it, however, Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendes cleared it out of bounds.
The match ended with a whimper as neither side put much pressure on the opposing goal in the final 20 minutes of the match.
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.