Chivas USA missing attacking cohesion

Vásquez says offense fails to connect in 1-0 defeat to Colorado

It’s not that Chivas USA’s midfielders didn’t create good space and forward movement in the team’s season opener against Colorado on Friday night.

They did.

And it’s not that Chivas USA’s strikers didn’t make good runs and put pressure on the Rapids’ defense.

They did.

The problem was that the two weren’t always happening at the same time.

On the whole, a new-look Chivas USA played well in the team’s 1-0 loss to visiting Western Conference foe Colorado. The real issue was the Red-and-White’s struggle to build a cohesive attack.

“We weren’t sharp in the attacking third,” said Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez after the match. “Our plays kept breaking down because we couldn’t connect our passes in the attacking third. If we are going to create opportunities, we need to be sharper and more effective in the offensive third.”

To be fair, Chivas USA’s largely new roster is adapting to a new head coach with a new tactical system. Finding a solid rhythm and building chemistry between fresh faces isn’t going to happen over night.

“It might take us a few games to really get into a good rhythm,” said Vásquez. “But hopefully we can get into rhythm as soon as possible.”

Much of the weight of building team cohesion will likely fall on the shoulders of Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein as the club’s new co-captains. Both looked solid in their season debut, but both will have to provide good leadership for the new faces in the lineup.

“I tried to lead by example tonight and give a few words on the field,” said Kljestan. “I don’t think we created enough, but we’re only going to get better as the season goes on.”

Kljestan was paired in central midfield with Osael Romero, Chivas USA’s new Salvadoran signing. The nimble attacker looked promising on a few plays, but still has to adjust to the pace and physicality of MLS play.

“I think he’s coming along very well,” said Kljestan of Romero. “He’s learning English and he’s wanting to put a lot in during training. We’re very happy with the progress that he’s making and we hope that he continues to grow and becomes a big help for the team.”

At the defensive end of the pitch, it was business as usual for Chivas USA. Aside from Omar Cummings’ goal in the 55th minute, which began with an unlucky deflection off Mariano Trujillo’s foot, the team’s back line looked as stingy as ever.

“I thought overall, defensively we were solid,” said Ante Jazic. “We gave up that goal, but they didn’t have much else. Their strikers are a handful, but I thought we dealt with them pretty well.”

The Red-and-White got a boost from the return of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to the lineup. The UC Santa Barbara alum had been sidelined for all of 2009 with a knee injury, but looked comfortable between the sticks for Chivas USA.

“I felt very confident out there,” said Kennedy. “I think my play was strong. I don’t think anyone would have said, ‘Oh, that guy’s been out for a year.’ I feel like I walked right back to where I was when I left off.”

Kennedy impressed in his first game back, making an acrobatic reflex save on a Cummings breakaway in the first half to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.

“It’s the stuff you visualize; it’s the stuff you do in training,” said Kennedy of the save. “In a one-on-one situation, you just try to be big and give the forward a tough decision. I think that’s exactly what happened.”

Chivas USA now turn their attention to in-stadium rivals, the LA Galaxy.

The two will clash at the Home Depot Center next Thursday evening in the first game of the 2010 Super Clásico. LA knocked Chivas out of the playoffs last season, so the Red-and-White will certainly be looking for a bit of payback.

“We have the Clásico on Thursday,” said Bornstein. “So it’s important for us to now put our heads down. We have to stay focused.”