Mrs Mags’s comment on Saturday night’s game was, “At least they didn’t lose.” And that’s about all you could say for it. We started quite nicely, scored an early goal, and then seemed to assume that the match was won. They out-passed us. They had more possession. And they really looked like they wanted it more. It was a very frustrating performance, one which did little to build on the positives of the previous match but which did extend the trend of fundamental errors in defense.
I have to write this quickly to keep my gorge from rising, so here goes:
1. Donovan Ricketts: Good to see him back and not a bad performance. Chivas only managed two shots on target all night, and one of them was Torres, unmarked, from about four feet. Can’t really fault Ricketts for not dealing with it. 6
5. Michael Harrington: The effort was there, the quality was not, and this is a story that’s been happening all season. I talked to Henry Gondorff after the match (he’d seen it as well) and his first comment was, “It seemed like Harrington didn’t hear the opening whistle.” Neither he nor Kah tracked Torres’s run into the box for Chivas’s leveler. In Harrington’s case it was slightly more excusable because Rosales was lurking in the area as well, but it was still a shocking failure of team defense. 4
44. Pa Modou Kah: Not really challenged all that much and, given that Chivas only has one guy who can really score, that’s not totally surprising. But letting him creep in behind to tap in Barrera’s cross was bush league. Chivas had no business working a draw against us on our home ground, but if you’re going to ball watch like that it makes this sort of incident much more likely. 4
98. Futty Danso: You pretty much know what you’re going to get from him: tough physical defending and a lot of long balls. He pretty much seemed like he rolled up in the same clown car as the rest of the guys in defense. 5
2. Alvas Powell: He’s 19. Let’s just get that out of the way. He’s making progress. He did better at keeping things in front of him, although he did also allow Barrera to get that ball across. He’s got decent pace and that helped at both ends of the pitch. Still, he doesn’t have much idea what to do with the ball when he gets forward with it. He also needs to learn that dribbling into three opponents is just not a worthwhile use of the ball. 4
21. Diego Chará: Back to his more normal role of kicking things and people in midfield after last week’s trip to the scoresheet. He did his best to keep things tight, but as we were bound and determined to give the ball away at every opportunity his efforts could only be so effective. 6
4. Will Johnson: Man of the Match, because he scored. This is a lot more than can be said for anyone else out there. He’s getting back to form and seemed a lot closer to his old self than he has at any previous point this season. 7
8. Diego Valeri: When he was in the middle he was effective. When he went wide his effectiveness seemed inversely proportional to his distance from a line down the middle of the park. He’s getting back to his old self, but he could really use some help. 6
11. Kalif Alhassan: Had some good moments. Gave the ball away a lot. I feel like I’ve written these words all too often about him. He’ll show flashes of real quality, as he did late in the match when he put Powell away down the flank with a beautifully weighted ball. Then he’ll dribble into a pack of defenders or kick the ball to no one in particular. I’d really like to see what Zakuani could do with this playing time. 4
6. Darlington Nagbe: For a lot of the first half you might have expected to see his photograph on the side of a milk carton because he was simply missing. He started to make things happen as the game went on. He was getting kicked an awful lot and that can’t be fun. Porter was right to demand that the referee keep an eye out. He had a decent shout for a penalty, but given the way our luck is running these days I wasn't shocked when he didn't get the call. The fact of the matter was that when he used his pace to challenge defenders good things seemed to happen. But then the ball would go to someone else (who was often times offside) and then the whole thing would come apart. 6
37. Max Urruti: Much as a he did score a very beautiful goal in the last match I think he needs a little time on the substitutes’ bench to get his head straight. He was offside about 250 times and that really cut down the effectiveness of our attack. I know he’s trying to be aggressive, but there’s aggressive and there’s careless and there was most certainly far too much of the latter. He can bring a lot to this team, but he needs to stay on his feet and stay onside. For me he should be benched in favor of Fernández until he can get all of that sorted out. Sure, he chased a lot and made a nuisance of himself, but it didn’t result in a great deal and all the offside calls had an effect about like a knife in the wall of a bicycle tire. 2
10. Gastón Fernández: Sent on for the last half hour in preference to Alhassan. He wasn’t really all that effective, and it’s not hard to see why. Once again, he and Urruti want to go to the same channels. It didn’t help much that Urruti was usually so far up that channel that the linesman was raising his flag. By the end you could see him getting really frustrated, and I think it’s fair to say that he was not alone. 4
This all may seem kind of harsh, particularly given that that was a draw. But this is a team that can do much better, and they need to start doing it now. In fairness, it should probably be pointed out that we’ve had a surfeit of bad luck so far this season, and also that we lead the league in posts hit. But we’ve made a lot of our own problems as well. This thing that is so frustrating is that this is a group that could get it right, but simply hasn’t done. Our next two matches are away to FSL, a team we’ve yet to figure out, and away to Houston. We need to get it together very quickly or things will get ugly in a hurry.