You know, save for the center of defense, this almost looked like a team that might be able to compete in this league. Of course, with only six points to show for the first third of the season, it's not likely to matter much in the grand reckoning, is it? And we've got to bear in mind that Chivas are at the bottom of the Western Conference to boot. But...there were three big chances for United to crumble. Everything about this season set them up to do so. But they didn't. They rallied. And so...
All aboard the Talking Points Express!
* About that post title. I know Talley comes out smelling a bit of the hero for having the composure to slot home a stoppage time penalty winner. But for the rest of the game he was a terrible liability, and not just when the not-exactly-rapid Justin Braun blew past him for Chivas' opener. Add in some missed headers and bad passing, and it wasn't shaping up to be one for the highlight reel. But I'd like to raise another question here. Talley was obviously struggling for pace and strength against Braun. Chivas were resorting to the direct approach from early in the match. To me, this game was screaming out for Julius James. Let him bang bodies with Braun, drop Peña off for cover, and get on with it. So who is more at fault? Talley for having a 3 or 4 rating until he took the PK or Onalfo for not recognizing the obvious issue?
* Central defense aside, the rest of this team looked like a pretty competitive bunch. Swapping out the likes of Morsink and Castillo for the quietly effective King and the livewire Najar made a massive distance. United not only played more quickly through midfield, but also actually got the ball wide in attack and, shocker of shockers, behind the Chivas back line. Instead of the slow-developing play that got attackers the ball with their backs to goal or no time and space in which to operate, playing quick and wide created opportunities to get behind, to run at defenders, and to actually create scoring chances rather than merely threatening to do so. After so many games where United controlled possession but wound up heavily outshot, it was quite the change to have an advantage in both areas.
* That said, the finishing wasn't exactly clinical. Allsopp had three golden chances but had two saved and pinged the third off the post. Still, I suppose the glass-half-full crowd might say that at least he put them on target, and I'll grant you that. But between those misses, Quaranta driving a great chance right at Thornton, and Castillo directing a wide open header about 15 yards wide of net, there was plenty of evidence of the fragile confidence (or is it ability) in scoring positions.
* But Quaranta more than made up for that one blown chance. It was he who maneuvered to play in Simms to cross for the second go-ahead goal. He drew the (questionable) penalty for the winner and had another, better shout for a PK turned down in the first half. Playing off Allsopp and later Cristman, he showed flashes of danger both on and off the ball. By combining dribbling, shooting, passing, movement, and the occasional positional switch with Pontius in midfield, he did what has so often eluded United's attack this year: he caused confusion in the Chivas defense.
* Najar's headed goal was positively Olsen-esque. Kid's got a ways to go, but thus far he's doing the number proud.
* Hamid made some pretty questionable decisions in net.
* Kljestan didn't have as much of an effect as I thought he might. Was that because we shut him down or was he sulking after Bob dropped him from the World Cup roster?
As I said in the open, there were three opportunities for the heads to drop. Dominating the open, but going down 1-0 must have seemed all too familiar to the men in black. As would have been the constant banging at the door with no reward. But it was suffering a late equalizer that could have been the ultimate crushing blow. Instead, United bounced back from all three setbacks.
Of course, they then proceded to look terribly vulnerable to the direct ball from the 10 men of Chivas (remind me again why Morsink comes on instead of James when they're lobbing balls over midfield and into the box?), to the point where you thought, "God this season has been one long string of 'it can't get any worse' moments. Is this going to be the topper?" Tell me you weren't thinking that after the Braun Blitz, the woeful defending to concede the second, and the handful of golden chances not taken. I almost expected that the stand-in keeper to save Talley's PK. Actually, screw "almost." I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact of it.
So in the final reckoning, it feels damn good to be able to finally say...