Fans who saw the scoreline of September 10th’s 3-0 win by DC United over Chivas would assume that DCU would win handily against the Goats at home and, with New York’s loss, would move into the driver’s seat with their playoff push. But as the excellent fan blog Black and Red United noted, Chivas actually dominated possession in the first game and bombarded DC with 29 crosses. A couple of early goals turned the tide arguably against the run of play, and DC could cruise to a 3-0 victory.
Last night, the same trend continued but the result was not a DC victory. Despite DC jumping out to a 2-0 lead early in the second half and looking like the better team, the Goats dominated the midfield and used two Juan Pablo Angel goals to take a much needed road point. Chivas had an edge in almost every statistical category including possession and shots, but from about the fiftieth minute to the seventieth minute of the game it was all Chivas USA, and that made the difference.
Instead of a tale of two halves, the match was actually a game of three periods. The first 35 minutes of the game saw both teams aggressively going forward, taking chances and trying to draw first blood. Chivas had the edge in possession and DC needed Bill Hamid to save a early deflected chance from Marcos Mondaini, but neither team established dominance early on, a bad sign for the home team.
But beginning with Dwayne De Rosario’s goal in the 39th minute, the second period (from roughly the 35th through 50th minutes) saw the Black and Red with control of the match. In a positive for DC, both goals came off of set pieces. The first was Andy Najar’s free kick from outside the box which found De Ro’s head and the back of the net. The goal was DC’s first headed goal of the year incredibly and gave the home side the momentum. Two minutes into the second half, DCU struck again off a set piece. This time, Santino Quaranta’s corner was put on goal by De Ro and the save deflected into the net by defender Ethan White for his first MLS goal.
At this point in the match, it looked like DC would cruise to victory just like they had ten days ago. But some critical mistakes by DC and some smart substitutions by Chivas USA turned the tide of the match. After the first Chivas goal, Ben Olsen sent on Steven King for Josh Wolff in hopes of grabbing more midfield possession. Instead, the exact opposite happened. Chivas subs Justin Braun and Laurent Courtois provided a major boost to the Goats lineup by adding some bite to the attack while the Chivas midfield began to dominate possession. The visitors from the fiftieth minute on looked like the more dangerous team, with probing runs and smart one-time passes through the DC midfield while all DC could do when they got possession was clear. In the 57th minute Angel scored his first goal of the night and Chivas kept up the pressure. His second in the 69th minute was no surprise, as Chivas was dominating the run of play. For DC, they had trouble mounting a comeback as Olsen’s substitutions had removed Charlie Davies and Wolff from the lineup, leaving just Joseph Ngwenya as the only offensive substitution he could have made.
The controversial moment in the match came in stoppage time, when Angel seemingly pushed De Rosario to the ground in the box. Replays showed the push was rather weak and the contact was likely not a penalty. Regardless, referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot, and De Rosario botched the penalty by sending a low shot to the right that was expertly saved by Dan Kennedy, preserving the draw.
The draw basically kept Chivas USA’s playoff hopes on life support, and Robin Fraser’s team had some positives to take from the contest (in addition to the road point). Juan Pablo Angel continued his good run of form since his “move” from the Galaxy. Their next two games (Toronto and Philadelphia) are absolute must wins because they close the season against LA and Seattle.
After the game, Ben Olsen went on a rant about the lack of urgency on the team, according to Steven Goff. “Up 2-0, now we think the game’s easy. Now we think we don’t have to tackle, we don’t have to win second balls: Let’s just roll the dice and hope we get lucky. It’s absolutely gonna stop — it has to stop or we will not make the playoffs.” The combination of letting off by DC and poor substitutions by Olsen hurt DC in this game, but regardless this was a must win for DC. Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake, who demolished New York, is now another must win for DC to keep up in the playoff race. Another draw or loss could mean desperation time in the nation’s capital.