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Guzan among the goats
by Ridge Mahoney, April 29th, 2008 6:45AM
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Not to blame all of Chivas USA's defensive problems on one guy- there's plenty of folks at fault - but what is going on with Brad Guzan?

A few accounts of the 4-3 thumping inflicted by Columbus on Chivas USA April 12 made reference to the new MLS ball as partial explanation for a Robbie Rogers shot that zipped by a transfixed Guzan for the fourth goal. But no complex template of aerodynamic curiosities and atmospheric conditions could describe how the third goal, also by Rogers, skipped past Guzan low to the near post without so much as a desperation dive, so far off his angle was the keeper.

A second goalkeeper alongside Guzan might not have stemmed the furious Galaxy attacks that overran Chivas USA, 5-2, Saturday at Home Depot Center. Yet with the score, 1-1, Francisco Mendoza raced into the penalty area after a questionable pass by David Beckham and banged a shot off the post. Each team managed a second goal, whereupon Chivas USA fell apart.

The crucial third Galaxy goal never should have happened; a scuffed ball high dropping straight down into the penalty area should have been caught or punched by Guzan, with our without Alan Gordon leaping to challenge.

Rather than extending his arms as he jumped, one of the most basic tenets of goalkeeping to gain maximum advantage, Guzan inexplicably kept his hands down to catch the ball at chest height as if he and he alone were going up for it. Gordon easily won the duel and drilled home the winner.

The fifth goal, too, found Guzan floundering, though a save seemed unlikely. Gordon ran onto a redirected ball at the edge of the goal area and had no Guzan to worry about, since the keeper had clumsily stumbled to the grass.

That goal may have only been of statistical interest, yet in two early-season matches, critical errors by Guzan have led to defeats.

GALAXY GAFFES. Both Chivas USA goals were directly the fault of Galaxy defender Abel Xavier, who failed to close down or challenge Sacha Kljestan on the first goal, and whose whiff on an easy clearance led to the scramble from which Ante Razov thumped home the second goal.

Xavier sat back in his own penalty area as Kljestan dribbled 20 yards to the edge of the penalty area, and instead of forcing Kljestan onto his weaker left foot, let him veer inside to curl a wonderful shot right-footed into the top corner. He'd done much the same thing earlier in the season against Columbus. Doesn't anybody on the Galaxy coaching staff take note of these things?

Also of note is the midfield presence of Joe Franchino, aside from his crunching tackles - one of which apparently re-injured Maykel Galdindo - and experience. As a lefty, it's easier for him to hit balls for Beckham out to the right, which is an issue Gullit addressed after Los Angeles beat San Jose, 2-0, in its home opener.

Right-footed players need to open up their hips and take an extra touch to play the ball to their right on their strong foot, whereas a lefty can just stride into the ball to hit it with the inside of the left foot.

"We play with a lot of right-footed players in midfield," said Gullit, "so to open that ball to him, it's extremely difficult. It's easier when you have a left-footed player in the midfield who can dink these balls over to him. When you play the ball out of the back and Greg [Vanney] gets the ball, he tries to do it."

Of course, if players can consistently hit accurate passes, especially over middle distances, with the outside of the right foot, the need for lefties isn't so important. But those guys are rare in MLS.



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