The physicality of a Chivas USA group that considers itself one of the “fittest clubs in MLS” was tested in every way in a 1-0 loss on Sunday at Pizza Hut Park.
Not only did the Rojiblancos have to deal with a heat index of 112 degrees on the field, but also the blistering speed of a talented FC Dallas. In the end, it was a Marvin Chávez shot deflected off of Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce and into the net that was the difference as the Rojiblancos dropped their first match of a five-game road swing.
To once again lose by the slimmest margins did not sit well with the Goats, but the defeat was the only one the team suffered during the month of July, amassing a 2-1-3 record.
Here are the three things we learned from Chivas USA’s defeat to FC Dallas:
POSSESSION TURNED INTO TURNOVERS
Against Dallas, Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser went back to the five-man diamond midfield, or 4-4-1-1 formation, that experienced so much success against Houston just a week prior. However, the result was much different. FCD placed a great deal of pressure on Rojiblancos midfielders, forced them into turnovers and turned them into forays towards the net.
With the Goats appearing to fade in the triple digit temperatures, the team’s shape changed when Alejandro Moreno came in for Michael Lahoud in the 59th minute, moving to a 4-4-2 formation. With two forwards up front, Chivas USA’s attack was more dangerous, but ultimately unable to find the equalizer.
“I don’t think we came out particularly strong like we did the last couple games, but we hung in there,” Pearce told reporters after the defeat. “The turnovers today are what eventually cost us the match. That many turnovers in this kind of heat it’s going to drain you pretty quick.”
CROSSES LACKED SHARPNESS
Throughout the match, the Rojiblancos struggled to send in the piercing passes that helped them defeat Houston just a week prior.
FC Dallas defenders George John and Ugo Ihemelu routinely prevented the crosses from Chivas’ wide players Lahoud or Jorge Flores of reaching their mark. With service into the box lacking, forward Justin Braun was forced to drop back into midfield and create opportunities for himself.
The most telling stat for the Rojiblancos was that of 27 attempted crosses against FCD, only three were able to find the mark. Against one of the top teams in the Western Conference, the performance was just not good enough.
“At the end of the day, we got into some good spots to send in crosses but we struggled to put it in to good spots,” Pearce told MLSsoccer.com. “Those are the kind of things where if they're going to give us the ball out wide and give us the crosses, then they have to be dangerous.”
REBOUNDING FOR THE REVOLUTION
Chivas USA will be forced to regroup on the road when they travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution on Saturday. The match is the second in a grueling five-game road trip during the month of August.
Although the loss to Dallas was painful for a Rojiblancos team that has playoff aspirations, the experience is an opportunity for growth.
“Games are games,” said Fraser. “Sometimes they don't go the way that you want them to, but in my mind, it doesn't affect what happens next week. We look at this game, we talk about putting a bit more quality on the ball and we recover for next week.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano