Chivas USA tinkering with formation to deal with World Cup hole

Kljestan absence and Galindo return could bring 4-4-2

CARSON, Calif. — Just when Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez seemed to have figured out his preferred lineup and attacking formation, he has to start all over again.

The Goats’ maestro has been forced to revaluate his offensive system in the absence of midfield leader Sacha Kljestan, who is with the U.S. national team. He will be gone for at least the next three games, maybe longer if he makes the U.S. squad.

“We’ve been playing a certain way because we felt that Sacha was doing very well and we got used to that system,” said Vásquez after practice on Tuesday. “But now we need to adapt. We’re going to have some good training sessions and make a decision.”

While Kljestan is a difficult player to replace, Chivas USA isn’t short on options. The team has a potent stable of midfielders who can step into the role.

“We have a hole to fill, but something that Sacha said is that we have a deep squad,” said Michael Lahoud. “We have brought certain players in for a reason, and this is going to give some guys some opportunities to really step up. Not only to fill holes in the lineup, but in terms of leadership and picking up the productivity.”

Chivas USA has employed a 4-4-1-1 formation in recent weeks, using Kljestan as a free-roaming attacker behind a lone striker. In his absence, however, Vásquez may consider shifting the formation back to a more typical 4-4-2.

“We can maybe move one guy out of position to play with two forwards,” Vásquez said. “That’s another possibility.”

Such a move would likely see some combination of Maykel Galindo, Maicon Santos, Chukwudi Chijindu, and Justin Braun as the two forwards. However, Vásquez may choose instead to keep his 4-4-1-1 formation and simply switch another player in for Kljestan.

“Osael [Romero] could fill that role, or perhaps even Blair [Gavin],” said Marcelo Saragosa. “We have plenty of players that are capable of filling in for Sacha.”

On the leadership side of things, Saragosa could step into role of veteran midfielder in Kljestan’s absence. At 28, the Brazilian is the oldest midfielder on the Goats’ roster and could provide some experience to the young Red-and-White squad.

“As a veteran, I want to be ready to help the team as a leader,” said Saragosa. “We need to make sure that we can get three points this weekend.”

Chivas face 2009 MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake on Saturday at the Home Depot Center, a match that would be difficult even with Kljestan on the field.

“Salt Lake is a good team,” said Lahoud. “We know we’re going to have to play well to compete with them. But if we bring the same mentality we’ve had for the last stretch of games, I think we’ll be happy with ourselves after Saturday’s match.”