I suppose the first thing that should be said here is that, as I said in my pregame post, Chivas has managed some considerable improvement from the form that they were on when last we met them. This was a side that actually had something resembling a plan and they were systematic and stubborn about putting it into practice. The plan was the same one that opponents have used against us for most of the second half of the season (and the exact opposite of that which the employed last year): get up and press. By not allowing us to play the ball out of the back in the comfortable way that we would like, Chivas managed to keep us off the front foot for much of the match, enough at least to keep us from banking the winner that seemed to be coming for so long.
This was a very uneven game, at least in terms of the individual performances. We spent much of the first half looking like a team that knew what to do, but simply doing it badly. I can hardly remember a match with so many botched passes and missed defensive assignments. Still we were in with a shout right to the end. A point on the road is not a disaster, but two other points which pretty clearly should have been ours have been allowed to slip away.
1. Donovan Ricketts: Back between the posts after his absence with Jamaica, Ricketts was mostly ok in limited work. He did a good job of closing down the space between himself and the back line, which was important given the number of times that certain guys in front of him were either caught out of position or gave the ball away. The goal was the result of a cascading failure in defense, and thus not his fault, but his distribution was not up to snuff. Too often he allowed himself to be maneuvered into booting it long rather than moving it quickly out to back line player to start things moving on the floor. 5
5. Michael Harrington: He gets an A for effort and he did a good job of getting forward and putting crosses into the box. But his passing in our own end lacked sharpness and he got caught up field rather more often than was healthy. 6
35. Andrew Jean Baptiste: AJB looked at sixes and sevens for most of the first half. He looked leggy and he had a number of giveaways from passes that a better team would have punished much more severely. He got caught ball watching on de la Fuente’s goal, although to be fair he was certainly not the only one. He improved in the second half, but still looked iffy and didn’t inspire confidence throughout. 4
44. Pa-Modou Kah: Had some questionable moments early (for instance his awful giveaway to Carlos Alvarez in the 14th minute) and was part of the collective ball watching in central defense that allowed de la Fuete an open header six yards from goal. Eventually he got it together and did the business. Put the reducer on a couple of attackers, his dominating clearing header taken through Fondy’s body in the second half being an excellent example. He a couple duff clearance, but stood strong overall and picked up the slack left by AJB’s rather mediocre outing. 6
7. Sal Zizzo: A very uneven performance, admittedly from a guy playing out of position. He was excellent going forward and put in a number of dangerous balls from the flank. But it was at the other end where things came a cropper. He is not the world’s most instinctive defender and he frequently allowed Chivas attackers too much space to do the business in front of him. He was not within five yards of Borja when the latter put in the cross of Chivas’s goal. You could say he was even money, but a fullback’s first job is to prevent things like that. 4
4. Will Johnson: An unusually weak performance from the captain. He ran a lot and was good in the tackle, but couldn’t seem to get much traction going forward and seemed off the pace for a lot of the game. He improved when Valeri came on, for reasons that must be obvious. 5
11. Kalif Alhassan: The irritating thing about Alhassan is not that he doesn’t play well, it’s that he doesn’t play well consistently. Yes, he has great skills, and yes, he’s gotten better about lingering on the ball. But every third pass was a disaster and he put up a couple of shots that a) had no chance of going in, and b) precluded his kicking the ball to someone else in a better position. He had a very good match last week, for which he should be congratulated, but the improvement in our play that occurred when he was lifted in favor of Valeri speaks volumes. 4
21. Diego Chará: He was the Man of the Match for me. While Will Johnson labored, Chará was bright and aggressive. He won lots of ball and was vigorous in pushing it forward when he did. Chará is still underrated among midfielders in this league, but he is quickly becoming a guy who brings the full package. Now if Christian Myles could just pronounce his name correctly. 8
6. Darlington Nagbe: He ran and ran and ran, pushing the ball at defenders and hassling people in midfield. This was a good night for him, and it really should have borne more fruit in terms of scoring. 6
20. Adolfo Valencia: Got another starting gig and did pretty well on the whole. He showed last week that he has the strength and stamina to go the distance, but he just couldn’t quite seem to get on the same page with Wallace and Nagbe and seemed frustrated by this. He’s still learning the game, and there were a number of moments when he showed real naivety, as when he tried to dribble through three Chivas defenders. On the other hand, his hold up play to setup Valeri’s equalizer bespoke greater maturity than has been seen so far. Still a work in progress, but I think that progress is being made. 6
22. Rodney Wallace: He was energetic and aggressive, prowling the left touchline and working the two man game with Harrington to good effect. He put in a number of decent crosses and won corners, but his efforts didn’t gel quite as well with the other attackers as he sometimes does. I suspect that this has something to do with the fact that he stayed pretty wide, as opposed to slashing infield, as is his wont when he is really firing. 6
8. Diego Valeri: Not very difficult to sum up his influence on this game. Came on at half time, improved the attacking play of the side immediately, and scored five minutes later. His passing got rather less precise as things went on, and I wonder if maybe he was feeling some lingering effects of the adductor strain. Still, he added a dimension of quality to the side that was lacking in his absence. 7
37. Maxi Urruti: Substituted for RodWall around minute 70, Urruti looked well up for it but was clearly still finding his way into our system. He was very active and put himself about a lot. He looked very promising, but I think it’s going to take a few weeks of training with this team for him to really figure out the patterns. 5
9. Ryan Johnson: Held out until late and didn’t really have a chance to make his mark. NR