Saturday, September 15, 2007

Passing marks

At the beginning of the season, Chivas USA had several tests. And they failed. Chivas USA was off to a 2-1 start and the one loss was one of those tough-luck losses. But then came the Galaxy, the arch-nemesis who pretty much controlled the series regardless of the teams' form. That was the first failed exam, as the Galaxy beat Chivas USA 3-1 in a game that wasn't all that close. Chivas USA regrouped, though, and eventually pieced together a string of solid efforts. Then came Chivas USA's second real test when they traveled to Houston a second time. Chivas had a 5-5-2 record at that point and needed not only to get points but to prove that they were a competitive side. That was the second failed exam, as Houston thrashed Chivas by 4-0.

Chivas USA eventually dusted themsleves off and started to compile some results. The club won two of three on the road and things started to look like they were coming together when faced with their third test as the Galaxy awaited. The Galaxy were hurting but it didn't matter in the past. Chivas USA had only one win against the Galaxy and a loss to them would have given L.A. life. Chivas passed that test with full marks as the club dropped three goals on the Galaxy and all but erased the mentality the previous losses had left them with.

D.C. United presented Chivas yet another test (at this point of the season, they're coming fast and furious). While Chivas did well to beat the Galaxy, D.C. was a much better club. At first, it appeared Chivas would fail this exam but after yielding two early goals Chivas USA regrouped. They got a fluky goal but then controlled the pace of the match afterward. Chivas fought back from two goals down to tie a match for the first time in club history - regardless of the result - and finished with a 2-2 draw. It wasn't three points but it was a good result against who many consider the best team in Major League Soccer.

Thursday's match wasn't so much of an exam as it was a reaffirmation. Had Chivas USA lost, they still would have been in a good position but their soaring confidence would have taken a dip and that may have affected the club in upcoming games. To beat the Galaxy 3-0 for the second consecutive time and to win the series trophy was significant. It's tangible proof that theirs is now a true rivalry. It's also one of those games that true contenders find ways to win. Just like D.C. was supposed to beat RSL at home on Wednesday, so too was Chivas USA supposed to beat the Galaxy on Thursday. The teams were at home against weaker opponents and though the teams lower in the table had some bite, the teams higher in the standings did what they needed to do.

It seems like clear sailing for Chivas USA. After having learned from their early-season setbacks, this club can be as good as it wants to. The ingredients are all there and the mentality is only growing stronger. And now, future tests won't loom so large - until finals week, that is. Then we'll see what this club is all about.

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