FOX Soccer Exclusive
Crisis time for Fraser's Chivas USA
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RESULTS
|Friday, September 28|
|Saturday, September 29|
|San Jose||3-3||FC Dallas|
|Chivas USA||0-4||Salt Lake|
|Sunday, September 30|
|More: Scores | Stats | MLS|
As improbable as it may appear right now, there was a point toward the end of July when Chivas USA looked like it might mount a playoff charge.
Robin Fraser's side cobbled together a four-game unbeaten run from June 20 to July 18 and supplemented that streak with a third win in six games at Portland to close out the month. There were still concerns about the Red-and-White's ability to score on a regular basis, but the stingy rearguard (four goals conceded and four shutouts registered during those six games) provided some hope of muddling through until the goals started to flow.
Instead of finding a way to locate the necessary incisiveness and stay in the playoff race, Chivas USA collapsed completely and fell into the pattern that produced its ongoing seven-game losing run and 11-game winless streak.
The first match in this awful spell – a 4-0 derby defeat to Los Angeles on Aug. 12 – looked like an exception to the usual standard at the time, but it quickly emerged as the rule. The formerly stout defense conceded 14 times in their next four games – including a somewhat harsh 6-2 defeat to Seattle on Aug. 25 – and struggled to recover. Fraser chopped and changed at the back to address the issues in front of valiant goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, but the eight goals shipped in the past two games indicate the problems persist.
Unfortunately for those beleaguered defenders, they continue to receive little help from an average midfield and an impotent attack. The entire group has produced just one goal in its past seven games, a Nick LaBrocca strike in a 2-1 defeat at Seattle on Sept. 8. The barren stretch merely underscores the season-long struggles at the sharp end for a side that has collectively notched fewer goals (21) than MVP-in-waiting Chris Wondolowski has scored for San Jose (22).
All of those problems derailed any playoff ambitions and placed the futures of pretty much everyone associated with the club in peril. Those halcyon days of summer represent a distant memory. Now Chivas USA must focus on more mundane objectives – collecting a point and scoring a goal before the season ends, for instance – and wonder how this potentially acceptable season crashed and burned so dramatically as it wound to a close. Let's see how they perform against FC Dallas on Sunday.
CLEAR THE CALENDAR
Chicago squandered its game in hand with a 3-1 home defeat to Philadelphia on Wednesday to ruin its 15-year anniversary celebration. The Fire must try to make up that lost ground when it visits New York on Saturday afternoon in a battle between two sides currently tied for second place in the Eastern Conference. The home side must push aside any distractions caused by the ouster of general manager and sporting director Erik Solér on Wednesday and the renewed speculation regarding Hans Backe's future to submit a decent performance. If Backe once again trusts his central midfield to Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty, then the Red Bulls may just find a way to keep pace with the Fire and maintain their hopes of finishing in second place.
Los Angeles faces a similar task when Real Salt Lake visits on Saturday night. RSL currently holds a two-point advantage over the Galaxy and a three-point advantage over Seattle in the race for second place in the West. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena enters this game with concerns about his central defense after A.J. DeLaGarza sustained a knee injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season in the 1-1 draw at Colorado on Sunday. In-form RSL strikers Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío should provide a stern test for probable replacement Tommy Meyer and the revamped Galaxy back four after tearing apart Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center last weekend.
SET THE DVR
Columbus enters the weekend one point behind Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Closing that gap could prove troublesome with current leaders Sporting Kansas City poised to visit Crew Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Crew must measure its attacking balance carefully and venture forward at the right times to hold out against a potent Sporting side that hasn't lost in nine matches.
PONDER ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
Philadelphia and New England meet at PPL Park on Saturday night in the first match between two teams already eliminated from playoff contention. Those sorts of affairs often lead to an entertaining back-and-forth between the teams, but the final result will ultimately mean little to the teams unless it helps to further the preparations for next season.
Kyle McCarthy writes about the beautiful game for FOX Soccer, the Boston Herald and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @kylejmccarthy.
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