In what’s becoming a broken record, the Goats again succumbed to their two biggest foibles this season during Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Chicago: turnovers and conceding early goals.
Chivas have allowed their opponents to score within the first 15 minutes six times this season. Within the first half-hour, they’ve given up an even dozen.
Against the Fire, the Rojiblancos eventually negated two early Chicago goals with two of their own just inside the hour mark. From there, they slowly began to pick up momentum but began losing possession in dangerous areas, which eventually led up to the Dominic Oduro’s winning goal five minutes from time.
For first-year head coach Robin Fraser, the fact that his club is constantly repeating the same mistakes is a frustrating experience.
“If you make a mistake once or twice, you realize that people are human,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “If you make the same mistakes week in and week out, it's severely disappointing. For the team, it's disappointing as well.
“It’s part of being a professional athlete, we have to be able to look at your mistakes and be able to correct them. If you can't correct them then you won't be a professional athlete for very long.”
Set-piece play sets Chivas back
There are a number of reasons why the Rojiblancos find themselves slipping out of the playoff race, but it was their inability to defend set pieces that led to an early deficit against the Fire. They conceded in the 2nd and the 26th to put themselves into a 2-0 hole.
On the Fire’s first goal it was Michael Umaña who lost his marker on a corner kick, allowing Cory Gibbs to put the Goats down early. In the 26th minute, disaster struck as Zarek Valentin headed a ball that bounced off the shoulder of Juan Pablo Ángel and into the Chivas net.
The Goats may have had more corners than the Fire (8-4), but their performance on set plays was maddening for goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
"The more disappointing thing is that's what we talked about not doing,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We needed to have some composure on the plays leading up to the set pieces and do better on those. All great teams have everything on lock down on set pieces, we need to friggin' man up and make sure that we have our marks and not let them have opportunities. Simple as that."
Pearce to return vs. D.C. United?
Veteran defender and team leader Heath Pearce may make his return from a hamstring strain slightly ahead of schedule. Sidelined since Aug. 27, Pearce was expected to miss at least a month. But thanks to his rigorous rehabilitation, the versatile back has returned to the fold and traveled with the Rojiblancos during their final road trip of the year.
Fraser may choose to give Pearce his first action in three weeks on Wednesday, and will also be able to call upon Brazilian defender David Júnior Lopes, who has returned from suspension. Although the temptation may be there to throw Pearce into the fray during their match at RFK, the Goats are preaching caution.
"We can't put Heath's long-term future at risk,” asserted Kennedy. “We’ll make the right decision for him."
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano