Rookie Casey Townsend scored his first career goal for Chivas USA on Saturday evening in what was a surprise victory against Real Salt Lake in Utah. After two consecutive home defeats The Goats were on the road for the first time and secured their first goal and win of the season against the Western Conference leaders. Townsend, making only his 2nd start of the season, fired home an opportunistic goal in the 72nd minute when Salt Lake keeper Rimando failed to keep hold of the ball after a Chivas attack.
Chivas USA arrived at the Rio Tinto stadium without a win in 2012 and with a squad missing several key players such as Juan Pablo Angel and Michael Lahoud. Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, had acquired six points from their first two games and were looking for more of the same against a struggling Chivas side. However, it wasn’t as one sided as people would have imagined and despite prolonged periods of possession for the home side the game remained extremely competitive throughout.
The first half of this game resembled both the 1st half performances from Chivas USA so far this season. They eventually adopted the same defensive approach in an attempt to absorb any pressure they were put under and hit their opponents on the counter attack. Salt Lake, therefore, had the better chances but Chivas USA defended well and again kept the score line at 0-0 going into the half. When the hosts did threaten in the first half it was former RSL reserve player McKenzie who made the difference alongside center back partner Heath Pearce. In an outstanding performance Rauwshan McKenzie defended superbly and even went close to scoring from a rebound after a 16th minute corner.
As half time approached, Chivas USA fans would have undoubtedly been concerned that this was becoming a lot like their last two home games. A lack of scoring opportunities was worrying but the defending kept the score at 0-0. The second half then was ominous. The Goats had failed in previous games to up the tempo in the last 45mins and looked vulnerable at set pieces. However, the 2nd half in this game proved to be a potential turning point in their poor early season.
Real Salt Lake brought on Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio to strengthen their attack and try and kill the game off early in the 2nd. It was Chivas USA though who started the half better and made a significant improvement on their previous 2nd half showings. They started matching RSL in the possession stakes and looked to have the aggression Robin Fraser was looking for in their attacking sequences. Despite their urgency, an end product in the final 3rd was still lacking but the attitude of the Rojiblancos was much improved as they looked to end their run of poor results.
The home side was still threatening the Chivas goal but it was visitors who eventually broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute. LaBrocca fed Ante Jazic into some space down the left hand side and the defender swung in a cross for Casey Townsend. The rookie rose to challenge for the ball and with some pressure on Rimando the ball slipped from the keeper’s grasp and Townsend took it on the half volley and hit the back of the net.
After the goal went in, the Goats had seemingly only angered the RSL players. For the remainder of the game the Chivas backline would come under increased pressure as the hosts threw players forward in the hope of an equalizer. If it wasn’t for some outstanding defending, goalkeeping and finally some consistency from set pieces Chivas USA might have left without the 3 points. Dan Kennedy, as per usual, was at his best and made a string of fantastic saves to keep the score at 1-0.
Overall, it was a remarkable performance and result from Robin Fraser and his players. Of the first 3 games of the season, this was clearly going to be the most difficult match; however, it was ultimately the one where Chivas USA would show the potential Fraser had talked about in preseason. Of course there is still a lot of improvement to be made when it comes to forward play, but the spirit and desire from the players was evident from the start. The stats will show RSL dominated proceedings but Frasers tactics worked perfectly and Chivas USA thoroughly deserved their victory. The Goats are still bottom of the Western Conference but this result proved that they can compete with the best of teams in the MLS this season.
LINEUPS AND STATS
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Jamison Olave, Chris Wingert; Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (Jonny Steele, 71), Sebastian Velasquez (Javier Morales, 46); Paulo Jr. (Alvaro Saborio, 46), Fabian Espindola.
Unused subs: Yordany Alvarez, Emiliano Bonfigli, Nat Borchers, Kyle Reynish.
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Rauwshan McKenzie, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Peter Vagenas (Ben Zemanski, 67), Oswaldo Minda; Ryan Smith (Scott Gordon, 74), Nick LaBrocca, Laurent Courtois (Cesar Romero, 81); Casey Townsend.
Unused subs: Miller Bolaños, Tim Melia, Alejandro Moreno, John Alexander Valencia.
Real Salt Lake Chivas USA
13 Attempts on Goal 6
3 Shots on Target 3
7 Shots off Target 1
9 Corner Kicks 2
14 Fouls 13
4 Offsides 1
1 Yellow Cards 4
0 Red Cards 0
85% Passing Accuracy 75%
60.6% Possession 39.4%
(image courtesy of Getty Images)