CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA celebrated the end of nearly three months' futility Sunday with a deserved triumph over visiting Real Salt Lake, and although they only have three games remaining on the schedule, they've still got some something to prove.
Felix Borja volleyed home a rebound at the start of the second half and the Goats' defensive bunker shut down RSL's offense and fueled a counterattack that generated at least a half-dozen good chances. The 1-0 triumph at the StubHub Center ended a seven-game losing streak and a 12-game winless skid that stretched back to mid-July.
“I don't want to say a weight lifted, but the guys have put in a lot of hard work, and it's frustrating when you go through a lull,” said 6-foot-5 center back Bobby Burling, who aerial dominance in the Chivas box contributed mightily to the result. “It's a deep, dark hole, and you don't think there's any way of getting out, and the guys really dug deep today."
“We knew it wasn't going to be pretty – Salt Lake's got a great team, and we knew they were going to have the majority of possession – and we were able to bunker down and keep them off the scoresheet.”
RSL had nearly 75 percent possession – nearly 80 percent in the second half – but they put just one shot on frame and never really challenged Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. It was a sterling defensive performance following six successive games in which foes scored three or four goals.
“I think it was just something we stressed in training all week, just being hard to play against again,” Burling said. “It's frustrating to say we felt good about our performance [after taking two leads in a 4-2 loss last week at Seattle], but then you give four goals. It's, like, that's not right. So I think a little more grit, a little more heart, and [we won our] one-on-one battles and were tougher to play against all around, from the forwards to the back four.”
Said Kennedy: “It took all 11 to defend, and [RSL] had possession, but it they couldn't do anything with it. … We sat in our shape and we withstood their pressure, and it actually gave is more space in their half, so when we were able to break, it was on.”
Kennedy called it “a complete performance,” and Chivas (7-18-6) emerged with great confidence that it can do something admirable in their final three outings.
“We start the month of October with a good win against one of the top teams in the Western Conference, and it is important because we needed to show that we haven't given up on anything yet …,” Goats coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “Hopefully, we can close the season in a better situation. That's our goal. … Let's continue what we're doing [and] get out of last place in the Western Conference. That, for sure, is our mentality.”
It just takes a little belief.
“It's the last month of the season,” midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker said. “Football is such a fantastic and wonderful game, why can't we win every remaining game from now until the end of the season? You know, it's a possibility, that's what makes it such a beautiful game.”