CHIVAS USA: What worked? What didn't?

Nick LaBrocca of Chivas USA tries to play the ball while under pressure by Davey Arnaud of Sporting Kansas City. Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

CARSON, Calif. -- We could pick apart the miscues that cost Chivas USA in its opener -- there were several, and they were costly -- but the big picture provides a more comprehensive glimpse of where the Goats are and where they're headed than can any of the details.

There was a lot more to like than dislike in Saturday night's 3-2 defeat to Sporting Club Kansas City at Home Depot Center, but if Chivas was pleased by its play, and it was, the defining emotion afterward was disappointment.

“Obviously, a very disappointing result,” Robin Fraser started his first postgame news conference. “I feel like when you play at home, you should win, end of story. But I was very, very encouraged by a lot of the soccer that we saw tonight.

“I thought that at times, for good portions of the match, we played very good soccer, got into the attacking end. I thought it was difficult for them to handle us as we came forward in waves. I would have liked to see us have a little bit more of a killer instinct in the final third, but I think that's coming as well. The disappointing thing is that I feel like individual mistakes led us to where we are, because for the most part, the team played fairly well.

THE GOOD: Here are three things that worked for the the Goats:

  • Marcos Mondaini: The Argentine playmaker, attacking mostly from the left flank, made Sporting's defenders dizzy with space-opening runs that might have led to more chances -- and surely will, as chemistry thickens -- had everyone on attack been on the same page. “He's good at creating space, pulling off of guys,” defender Jimmy Conrad said. “I think that proved difficult for [Sporting]. They really didn't know how to handle him. … I think as we understand him more, it's just going to make our team better."

  • Team defense: Sporting has the foundation of a dynamic attack, even with Teal Bunbury on the sidelines, but it accomplished little against Chivas' defense, except on the goals, all product of mental lapses. Fraser judged it “fair to decent, in terms of our organization and being able to win balls back right when we lose them. … When we did a good job of it, I think it was difficult for Kansas City to find clear-cut options forward, and you could see sometimes it was good, and sometimes it was a step or two off, and then the other team becomes dangerous.”

  • Set-piece scoring: Chivas scored just two goals last season from dead balls, one off a corner kick and the other a penalty kick. They netted two Saturday, both from corner kicks, and both finished emphatically. Conrad, wearing the captain's armband, netted his first goal as a Goat, and his 20th in MLS, in the 55th minute to make it 2-1 -- he's on target for 34 this season, he pointed out afterward -- and Ben Zemanski stayed just onside to finish Nick LaBrocca's put-back from a clearance, his first MLS goal.

THE BAD: Here are three things that didn't work:

  • Defensive concentration: Sporting's C.J. Sapong scored in the second minute after Zemanski failed to heed Zach Thornton's command to “leave it,” giving the ball away in the box. (“I don't think that will ever happen to [Zemanski] again in his career,” Conrad said.) Omar Bravo made it 2-0 when rookie Zarek Valentin failed to get to a bouncing cross from Kei Kamara and Heath Pearce failed to close down the Mexican star. And Bravo netted the third when K.C. headed along a long goal kick, one-two-three, leaving an easy finish.

  • First and last five minutes: “What's the old adage for coaches?” Conrad noted. “First five minutes of a half and last five minutes of a half, you can't give up goals in that time. You give up a couple of those, and you're not going to win games.” Sporting's goals at the start and end of the first half were the difference. “The point I made to them is that when you fully concentrate for 90 minutes, it's very different than if you concentrate fully for 87 minutes and have a minute lapse here and a minute lapse there,” Fraser said. “And, really, at the highest levels, that's how it is.

  • Better finishing: Chivas didn't do a lot with its possession, Mondaini aside, but building a coherent attack takes time, and this is a new team. Fraser, asked about Justin Braun, noted that “his nose for the goal made him almost dangerous. You can't be satisfied with being almost dangerous. And I think that pretty much goes for our whole team.”