Chivas USA Vs Vancouver Whitecaps
By Simon Allen
Coach Chelis started the Post match conference saying “Surprise or no surprise.. Chivas exists!” and when asked if he was the best coach in MLS, responded humbly “I am a very bad coach...” and immediately went on to praise the 27 players on Chivas USA's roster and their work ethic.
“I am very thankful to have these players” added Chelis and then to make sure the point wasn't missed, Chelis repeated the original humble statement with “I am the most bad coach in this League”
This humility was not lost on the players who had just beaten The Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 at The Home Depot Center in front of 8354 fans. Throughout the locker room Tristan Bowen and Jorge Villafana were praising the entire squad when asked about how well they were personally doing on the pitch.
Chivas USA does exist and The Vancouver Whitecaps learned first hand how well they grind out results. Prematch warm ups and all eyes were on Nigel Rio-Coker. The English player looked like he was keeping an eye on all the players as they were passing the ball around. Coker was the key man in Whitecap squad. If he could control the players in front of him then Andy O'Brien and Joe Cannon could take care of the back. Chivas USA knew this and effectively stopped him from being a threat.
As soon as referee, Ismail Elfath blew the whistle, Chivas USA made their intentions known with a straight pass down the middle of the park to Bowen which was gathered by Cannon. The first goal came at the 12 minute mark, midfielder Carlos Alvarez ran the ball from the left side and was given too much space by Lee Young-Pyo. Alvarez took the opportunity and shot the ball to see it deflected by Whitecaps player, Jun Marquez Davidson into his own net. Chivas USA were attacking well and in the 20th minute with some great passing the ball ended up in the side netting of the 'Caps goal by Eric Avila. If Juan Agudelo had been a split second quicker, the pass that he created may have been a shot which would have changed the match early on.
Avila would get his opportunity in the 54th minute when he scored a cracker of a goal from a cross by Alvarez. Lee Young-Pyo again marking too casually for the Whitecaps giving Alvarez time and space to pinpoint his pass over the defense. The Whitecaps had surrounded Jose Correa and had completely ignored Avila who was behind them ready to pounce on the ball to make it 2-0. Correa had come in for Agudelo who had been subbed off around the 32nd minute to receive medical attention.
Vancouver were finding pockets in the midfield and in the back to pass the ball and create attacking chances. At one point Bowen slipped on the grass while on the ball only to have Rio-Coker take it and dribble it towards goal. Bowen seeing the counter, chased down Rio-Coker and snagged the ball to start another attack for Chivas.
The action throughout most of the first half was on the left side of the stadium so in the second half both teams started spreading out and distributing the ball wider. Chivas USA were smothering most of the Whitecaps counter attacks until the 63rd minute when the squad gave their opponents three gaps to thread passes for what would eventually become their first goal. Started by Daigo Kobayshi, the ball fell to Erik Hurtado on the right side of the pitch after a string of easy passes. Hurtado took the the shot after a short dribble which was saved by Kennedy. Kennedy in fact pushed the ball to his right into the path of Kenny Miller who easily headed it into the back of Kennedy's net. 2-1 and Chelis signaled defender Daniel Antunez to get ready off the bench. In the 68th minute, forward Bowen is subbed off for the defender. Five minutes after that, the ball was being played on the right side of the field, for what looked like the first time.
In the 74th minute the Whitecaps started an attack which resulted in a corner kick that was taken short only to have Chivas defenders at sixes and sevens for a few seconds at least. The Caps went all out when Darren Mattocks attempted to curl the ball over Kennedy only to see it hit the top netting. No goal! But The Union Ultras, who were in full voice, definitely knew how close it was to evening up the scoreline.
The Whitecaps didn't stop. Rio-Coker was commanding and constantly attacking. At the 90th minute Kekuta Manneh broke away towards the Chivas USA goal only to see Kennedy off way is line. Kennedy tackles Manneh and saves what may have been a last minute equalizer.
Back in the locker room Kennedy remained humble in celebrating the victory. “It's a completely new group...the guys that are here from last season have put last season behind us and the guys that are new are trying to prove their worth...We want to be a hard team to play against...” Then Kennedy went on to praise the squad and how well they took care of Rio-Coker and the Whitecaps. When asked if Chivas USA were play off contenders, Kennedy responded with “We're 5 games in...we got 29 to go...We're only worried about the next game!”
The next game is against Colorado Rapids April 13th. Watch this Space.