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Defense keeps Chivas in running; offense needed for playoff run

Chivas goalie Dan Kennedy has kept his team, which has scored 11 goals all season, within striking distance. But making the playoffs will require more offense.

July 07, 2012|By Andrew L. John
  • Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, right, celebrates a 1-0 victory over the Galaxy with teammates Blair Gavin, center, and Pete Vagenas.
Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, right, celebrates a 1-0 victory over the Galaxy… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Earlier this season, it appeared any hope Chivas USA had of collecting points in the MLS standings rested solely on the shoulders of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. After the club scored just a single goal in its first four games, scoreless ties were welcome — even viewed as a small victory by some.

But with Chivas (5-7-4) entering the second half of its season, the fate of the club is no longer under Kennedy's control. Chivas is in seventh place in the Western Conference. To make strong push to get into the top five and reach the MLS Cup playoffs, Kennedy is going to need some help.

It's remarkable that Chivas is still in the playoff hunt despite scoring just 11 goals heading into Saturday night's matchup with Vancouver — the fewest in the MLS this season. It's a credit to the Chivas defense, most notably Kennedy, who is fourth in the league with 55 saves.

Kennedy "has been a big part of keeping us in games," Chivas Coach Robin Fraser said Friday. "He's been extremely important for us."

Fifteen times this year, Chivas has scored one goal or none, yet Kennedy has prevented the season from slipping away. Because only seven of those games were losses, Chivas still managed to generate points in the standings.

The problem for Chivas isn't just scoring, but also generating scoring opportunities. The club is second to last in the league in shots taken (155) and shots on goal (47), and has only improved incrementally over the course of the season.

As a result, it's often up to Kennedy to preserve a tie.

Kennedy said Friday that the team likely will need to win more than eight games this season to qualify for the playoffs.

"I think we've made huge strides from the beginning of the year until now," midfielder Nick LaBrocca said. "It's just a matter of carrying it through and being urgent and being aggressive."

Although the club has improved some since the start of the year, there's still work to be done. After all, Chivas was held scoreless in two of its last three MLS games and has had only two multiple-score games in league play since April 7.

That has to change for Chivas to make a serious playoff push.

"I guarantee we'll score more in the second half of the season than we did in the first," Kennedy said. "And if we can stay as stingy as we have defensively, then we'll have a lot more points to show for it."

andrew.john@latimes.com

@drewjohn13

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