CARSON, Calif. — Throughout the season, Chivas USA have consistently felt as if they were on the brink of something special, a victory that could help elevate them into a team that can contend for a spot in the postseason.
On Wednesday night, the Rojiblancos may have given exactly that type of performance in a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Chivas USA started slowly against the Earthquakes, but a pair of beautiful moments that lifted the team to victory not only snapped the Goats' month-long four-match winless streak, it also gave them confidence that, finally, things are moving in the right direction.
“Win No. 5, in our opinion, has been a long time coming,” said head coach Robin Fraser after the match. “We’ve played well enough to get results in the past, but this is part of our learning experience because it’s not good enough to play well. You have to play well and play effectively over 90 minutes, and I think that for us, it’s a good milestone, especially coming off the last few games where we’ve scored quite a few goals but have also given up quite a few as well.
“The teams that play well are the ones that don’t get involved in shootouts,” he added. “You need to be disciplined defensively and find good opportunities, so I feel that tonight was a good building block for us.”
During their four game winless streak, Chivas USA dealt with self-proclaimed “mental mistakes” that caused them deep frustration. Against the Earthquakes, the Goats were able to recognize errors, be they on offense or defense, and then turn those miscues into positives.
On offense, when the team struggled to create chances, Fraser subbed in Ben Zemanski and Francisco Mendoza. Those changes would pay off in the end, as Zemanski scored a thrilling goal from distance to liven the match and Mendoza played the distributor for Nick LaBrocca’s insurance tally.
On defense, when San Jose attackers Chris Wondolowski or Steven Lenhart threatened, Chivas USA’s backline was able to rise to the moment.
After spending a month of searching for positives among close losses and draws, the Rojiblancos were pleased that they were finally able to leave the pitch with not just their heads held high, but with a victory in their hands as well.
“Everyone is going to go home tonight with a good feeling and it’s been awhile since we had that," said Heath Pearce. “We’ve had a lot of moral victories this year and everyone kind of got fed up with that moral victory talk because a moral victory doesn’t mean s--- at the end of the day.”
With the win, Chivas USA pulled themselves into a tie for the 10th and final spot in the playoffs with the Earthquakes. They'll now prepare for their match on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City in what will be their third game in eight days.
It is a match in which Chivas USA hope to signal their arrival as a legitimate playoff contender.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano