Vásquez says Chivas must improve in first half

Goats manager says team must learn to maintain early focus

Martin Vasquez

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CARSON, Calif. – For Chivas USA, time is of the essence. Especially this season.

Red-and-White fans looking to find a scapegoat for some of their club’s troubles in 2010 may need look no further than a clock. The Goats’ year has largely been a tale of two halves, with the team proving to be a much more formidable squad after halftime than before it.

The Chivas USA attack has bordered on the abysmal in the first half of play this season.

The team has scored more than twice as many goals in the second 45 than in the first, and has found the back of the net in the first half of play in just five of 20 games so far this year. That’s an average of one first-half goal every four matches.

The Goats have also endured two separate five-game streaks of scoreless first-half play; the first five games of the season and the most recent five, including the 1-0 loss to Dallas last Saturday.

Given that Chivas USA have yet to win a game in which they don’t score first, finding a way to get some early goals will be a crucial piece of the puzzle for head coach Martín Vásquez as he leads the team into the final third of the season.

“It makes a big difference when you start the game making good decisions,” Vásquez told MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday. “You start with a good rhythm and you are solid defensively. That’s the key in the first 10 minutes. You have to start that way so you give yourself a good chance to win the game.”

In some cases, Chivas USA’s inability to strike in the first half has come down to bad luck more than anything else.

“There have been some games where our play in the first half wasn’t so bad,” Vásquez said. “I can remember against Columbus or Seattle, we did well in the first half. This last game, we held Dallas to one chance in the first half. We’re defending well. We kept their key players to very little opportunity.

"The problem was what we did when we had the ball. At times, we were too imprecise or not smart. That’s unacceptable now. We have players that have experience. We have quality. We have to give ourselves a chance in the first half to set the tone.”

For Vásquez and his staff, the answer to Chivas USA’s first-half jitters is focus. The team must be fully concentrated for the duration of the match – especially in the opening minutes – if they are to start getting results.

“We’re hoping to play the 90th minute the same way we play the first minute,” Vásquez said, “with good concentration, keeping good possession of the ball and dictating the tempo. If you try to be too aggressive and give some space in the back, you give up a goal and then you end up chasing the game. The first 10 minutes sets the tone.”

Chivas USA take on D.C. United this Sunday at the Home Depot Center in what will be seen as a must-win for the Goats.