In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Chivas USA’s pursuit of a playoff spot got a much needed shot in the arm.
Led by the inspired play of recent acquisition Juan Pablo Ángel, the Rojiblancos battled back from a pair of deficits against the Colorado Rapids to earn a hard fought 2-2 draw at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Ángel and fellow newcomer Laurent Courtois provided the scoring punch for Chivas as they took home a point from the defending MLS Cup champions.
The Goats now sit just a single point behind the New York Red Bulls and have a game in hand. The week ahead presents a major opportunity to gain ground in the playoff chase with six points up for grabs, first at Portland on Wednesday and then at home against Real Salt Lake next weekend.
Here are three thoughts from Chivas USA’s draw with the Rapids:
Moreno and Ángel's emerging partnership
Composure up top has been a point of contention for Chivas USA since the preseason, but with the experienced Ángel and Alejandro Moreno at forward, those worries are being put to rest. Even as the club struggled to generate offense in the first half, their partnership appeared to be blossoming into a successful one.
The two accomplished strikers were able to work well holding possession, which was then turned into dangerous chances in the Rapids’ final third. Moreno’s own passing ability served to set up Ángel, who was still attempting to find his way in the Rojiblancos attack after being acquired earlier in the week.
“I thought, considering it was their first game that they played together, I thought their relationship was good,” head coach Robin Fraser told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I thought their awareness of where the other was, was good. And as the game went on I thought that their relationship got even better.”
Courtois scores his first
In his third MLS appearance, Chivas’ new Frenchman was finally able to showcase his true talents in the attack. Courtois has been used off the bench as he regains his fitness after the European season and the results have been mixed, but on Saturday, the winger made his biggest contributions.
After coming on in the 60th minute, Courtois made a number of clever runs at the Rapids’ goal and helped hold possession as the Goats pressed for an equalizer. He ended up being the man to provide it, scoring his first MLS goal in the 86th minute when he made a deep run from midfield and capitalized on a Michael Lahoud through ball.
“[Courtois] was extremely dynamic, which is one of the things that we liked about him when we brought him in,” Fraser said. “He was dangerous in finding gaps between defenders and running into space behind defenders. He scored the one goal and could have had another.”
Resilience shines through
The Rojiblancos earned a point from their trip to the Rockies, but still put in a nervy performance at times. Despite controlling a majority of the possession, two defensive lapses allowed Colorado to score a pair of goals.
The silver lining is that rather than simply get frustrated with their performance, Fraser’s men displayed to twice battle back from a goal down.
“They know what they have to do to get into the playoffs,” said Fraser. “As we get sharper and sharper, the belief gets higher and higher. We were more resilient. At the end of it, we’re content with a point, but we know we can play better.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano