Driling down on: Chivas USA 2, at Portland 1

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Man of the Match: Ryan Smith didn’t start. Why? You can’t blame Robin Fraser for continuing to toy with his selection, though Smith (after coming on at halftime) immediately showed why he shouldn’t be sacrificed to accommodate experimentation. Smith torched Lovel Palmer in the 48th minute to get the cross in for Alejandro Moreno’s equalizer, and in the 82nd minute, another sharp cross put home by the previously quiet Nick LaBrocca gave Chivas USA another valuable road win.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • As so many games are, this one was a match of two halves. The first saw a slightly better Portland score somewhat early and show themselves to be the superior side over 45 minutes. The second saw a better Chivas USA score very early and show themselves to be the superior side over the second 45. With a second goal, Chivas’s half trumped their hosts’. While they offered very little in the first half, they ultimately snagged a deserved win.
  • Chivas started the same 4-1-3-2 they played against Kansas City but came out of half in a 4-1-4-1, moving Ben Zemanski to the middle when Smith replaced Blair Gavin. The extra width payed off on both goals, while the midfield of Zemanski, Nick LaBrocca and Oswaldo Minda was able to level the scaled after a Portland-controlled first half.
  • After shading right in midfield last week for John Spencer, Diego Chara played was the ‘1’ in Portland’s 4-1-3-2, a deployment that proved beneficial in the first half as Portland used the their regista to dictate play. Once Chivas USA made their halftime adjustment, Chara’s most valuable contribution was running backward, be it to mark runners through the midfield or to make tackles in front of Eric Brunner and Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
  • One player with a surprisingly quiet night was Darlington Nagbe, though it would have been difficult for him to rekindle last week’s fireworks. Still, it was clear what effect Nagbe can have playing behind Kris Boyd if given license to move freely into the spaces in front of the defense. There’s also a scary element to Nagbe being the man turning on passes out of Portland’s third, leading the Timbers into the counter. On Saturday, none of that really came off, but that may only be a matter of time.
  • The odd man out in that scenario, though? Jorge Perlaza, who started the night on the bench before coming on in the 76th minute. If that selection continues, Spencer has got to get more out of Eric Alexander and Frank Songo’o (or whomever starts on the opposite flank). Alexander was solid but also bogged down a few early attacks down Chivas USA’s right. Songo’o didn’t have much of an effect.
  • Chivas USA now has two valuable road wins, their three at Jeld-Wen coming two weeks after their smash and grab at Rio Tinto. For Portland, it’s two heartbreaking home losses in a row, results that have to leave Spencer questioning what he’s got to do to get his team to the final whistle without capitulating.