SEATTLE — Thanks to a splash of good fortune in the midst of a game rank with adversity, Chivas USA were able earn a point on the road against the Seattle Sounders this past Saturday.
Seattle controlled much of the match, but a missed penalty by Álvaro Fernández and steady goalkeeping from Dan Kennedy allowed Robin Fraser’s men to improve their record during their make-or-break five-match road swing to 1-1-1.
Here are three thoughts from Chivas USA’s weekend in the Pacific Northwest:
Júnior Lopes faced uphill climb in first appearance
After receiving the clear to play just hours prior to kick-off, David Júnior Lopes was thrust into action in the 73rd minute for Zarek Valentin and quickly received his welcome to Major League Soccer. The 6-foot-3 defender, who was officially signed from Romanian club Universitatea Craiova on August 12 after a week-long trial, suffered an uneven debut in Seattle.
Tasked with handling the size of Seattle forward Nate Jaqua, Júnior Lopes found himself frequently targeted by the Sounders. He showed composure with skilled clearances, but was also beaten several times as the Sounders threw numbers forward. His difficulties were compounded in the 89th minute when he brought down Sounders forward Lamar Neagle in the box for what looked to be a penalty.
That’s where the good fortune came in. Referee Kevin Stott decided not to award Seattle with the PK, sparing the defender’s blushes. But it was still a rough debut for Júnior Lopes.
“Difficult situation to put him into and in retrospect, not so fair to him,” said Fraser. “It's very difficult as a defender to come in during the second half and deal with the speed of the game. So I think, for sure, it's one of those things where he played in the reserve game, but he hasn't been able to get a number of minutes so he just needs to get up to game speed.”
Sloppy finishing in Seattle
Chivas managed just four shots on goal against Seattle after a fine performance the week prior against New England. Part of this struggle was due to the fact that Fraser was forced to make a change early when starter Marcos Mondaini went out with an eye injury.
Mondaini, who was active in his brief run, was forced to leave after experiencing blurriness in his eye due to being hit by a ball. Fraser compared it to being punched in the eye, and turned to Justin Braun after just 23 minutes.
Once Mondaini went out, Braun and Moreno struggled to combine in the attack with the best chance coming when a Moreno flick to Nick LaBrocca forced Kasey Keller to come out of his net and make a stop late in the first half. However, as the match wore on, the midfield had difficulties maintaining possession, which led for fewer opportunities for the attacking pair.
"Tonight we didn't play our best,” Braun told MLSsoccer.com. “We were definitely sloppy in the final third and that's something that we've been trying to work on. It was just one of those nights where things weren't clicking. The final touch or the final pass to set up an opportunity wasn't there, but we believe in this group because we've shown we can score goals."
Adu decision in the rearview
Prior to the match against the Sounders, there was arguably more focus on who was not in a Chivas USA uniform than on who was. Reports from a number of outlets, including FOX Soccer, stated that US international Freddy Adu was on his way to Chivas, creating a wave of speculation in the fan base. But the deal was nixed, allowing the midfielder to move to the Philadelphia Union.
Although the Rojiblancos were unable to add the mercurial attacker, Fraser was not dwelling on the fact that the move did not work out.
“There was some interest, but we were unable to work out the circumstances to make it happen, so it is what it is and we move on,” Fraser told reporters on Friday. “As I’ve said all along, I’m a pretty practical person so if something doesn’t happen then I’m not going to waste a whole lot of time worrying about what could have been. It’s just way it worked out and we move on.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano