Drilling down on: Real Salt Lake 0, Chivas USA 1
Operator: 911. What’s your emergency?
Caller: I just witnessed a robbery.
Man of the Match: With apologies to Dan Kennedy, I can’t help but be sentimental. Casey Townsend had been quiet through most of the match. That’s the way things go when you’re up top, by yourself, and your opponent’s got two-thirds of the possession. The one time he was called upon, the former Terrapin delivered, rising above Chris Schuler and Nick Rimando to win a what seemed like Chivas USA’s only cross of the match. Putting his right foot to Rimando’s spilled ball, Townshend fired home his first MLS goal. I suspect it’s the first of many.
Packaged for take away:
- No excuses for RSL – they should have won the match. They had the better players, better tactics (more on this, below), and they played better soccer. But RSL left this game to be taken from them. Credit to Chivas USA, they snatched it.
The Townsend goal was one of only two decent chances Chivas USA generated, the other on a first half corner were Luis Gil’s apathetic mark of Pete Vagenas forced some Rimando heroics. Chivas was decidedly second best but take three from Rio Tinto.
- Robin Fraser’s tactics were off. His selection looked like it would play like a 4-5-1, but with wingers Laurent Courtois and Ryan Smith playing at a higher level than central midfielder Nick LaBrocca, Fraser’s team played more of a 4-3-3 that left them out-manned (three against four) in midfield. RSL’s possession would hover in the mid-60s (percent) throughout the first half, finishing at 60.6 come full time.
- Had Chivas’ wingers pinned back RSL full backs Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran, Fraser’s approach could have worked, leaving a narrow RSL without wide options. While Smith did a fine job on the right flank, Courtois offered nothing defensively down the left. Beltran was not only allowed to bound forward throughout much of the match, he was allowed to come in and augment RSL’s midfield advantage.
Part of the reason Chivas couldn’t pin Wingert and Beltran: Fraser’d taken his best player on the ball (Nick LaBrocca) and moved him farther from goal. As a result, Chivas had nothing going forward, they weren’t able to make any of their attackers into credible threats, and except for about eight seconds in the second half, RSL was able to control the entire match.
- What saved Chivas? Missed chances by RSL (I’m looking at you, Schuler and Alvaro Saborio) as well as good execution by their defenders. In the second half, their line forced four crucial offside calls, neutralizing some nice passing from Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy.
- Speaking of Morales, he and Saborio came on at half time as Jason Kreis stuck with the same starting lineup for the third straight week. If it’s not broken, why fix it, right? Well tonight, it hurt, as RSL couldn’t make full use of their first half tactical advantage without their big guns.
- This is a huge win for Chivas USA, but Robin Fraser needs to see it for what it is. The team was lucky Rimando dropped that cross and lucky Saborio didn’t convert a number of second half chances. Wipe your brow, take your three points, and exhale a sigh of relief, Robin, because there’s still a lot of work to do.