Halfway through a brutal month, Chivas USA are eager to show that they belong in the company of the league’s elite. Sunday night's performance made a good argument. Behind Justin Braun's hat trick — the forward’s first and the first in franchise history — the Goats defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-2.
Head coach Robin Fraser’s side was able to repeatedly match the high-octane New York attack and became the first team to score two or more goals at Red Bull Arena in 2011.
Watch: Full Match Highlights
Here are the three things we learned from the victory:
1. Chivas USA are becoming road warriors
With the victory against the Red Bulls, Chivas became the first team in MLS this year to win on a transcontinental road trip. If not for a Will Johnson goal less than five minutes before full time a week before — a goal that came with Real Salt Lake up two men — the Rojiblancos would be undefeated in road play this year.
The result at Red Bull Arena was the second road victory of the year for Chivas USA, bringing them to 2-1-2.
“We didn’t play great today, but we still found ways to get the ball into the net, we still found ways to defend that lead,” said Fraser after the match. “I think for a young group that is growing and in the building process, I think a result like this, with this kind of effort, further confirms everything that we’re trying to do.”
2. The opportunistic attack Chivas USA have long sought has arrived
After the first month-and-a-half of the season, Chivas had only scored three times in five matches and been blanked three times. During the goal drought, players and coaches alike preached that the club must become more efficient in front of the net and goals would come from a team effort.
Against New York, it was superior positioning and a willingness to make difficult plays that led to scoring outburst. The embodiment of this came on the second goal when defender Ante Jazic was able to make a key knockdown in the box allowed Braun to score his second of the night.
3. Chivas USA are perfecting the “bend but not break” defense
The Red Bulls dominated the late-game proceedings Saturday night and put a great deal of pressure on the Chivas back line, but they couldn’t break them. The Goats came up with big clearances to preserve the result against Thierry Henry & Co. — Ben Zemanski in particular put in a very good showing. After failing to preserve a draw late last week, Chivas showed their defense causes trouble even for the league’s most formidable attacks.
“We had to be able to sustain that pressure and as you saw last week, we know how to do that and make decisions and we did collectively as a group,” said goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. “Late in the game, there were a lot of guys that had to make smart decisions and we did, so we came out with three points.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano