Commentary: 3 things to fix at Chivas USA
Chivas USA fell further behind the playoff pack on Saturday afternoon, recording their 14th loss in a 3-0 decision to the Philadelphia Union in Chester, Pa.
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The Red-and-White’s chances of seeing playoff action are all but gone with just five games left to play, but head coach Martín Vásquez will be glad to have another month of play to continue shaping his squad and building for the future.
With that in mind, here are three things that Vásquez should be focusing on improving as the Goats head toward October.
With each new week, Chivas USA seem to have a different mind set and a different set of players. Against New England Aug. 10, they came out firing in an attack-minded setup. Against Kansas City a week later, they were completely flat and notched just one shot on goal.
Saturday’s game against Philadelphia appeared to be a hodgepodge of tactics, with many of the players looking out of place on several occasions. Vásquez needs to figure out exactly what kind of soccer he wants to play and then fit his players into that system.
The Goats of 2007 to 2009 were known for being defensive stalwarts. The Goats of 2010 aren’t really known for anything, and that’s a problem.
Don’t get me wrong: Mariano Trujillo, Ante Jazic, Michael Umana and Dario Delgado can play. They have a load of experience between them and are strong at the back. But with an average age of almost 30 years old, it’s fair to say that Vásquez’s usual choices may be lacking a bit of youthful exuberance. The Red-and-White would do well to add some pace to the defense, for example, by including a set of younger legs in the lineup.
The Goats’ defensive corps is also lacking in size. Not one of the usual starters is taller than 6 feet, which can make dealing with aerial assaults or muscling attackers off the ball difficult. Vásquez would do well to start grooming some young, physical defensive talent in the coming months.
Paulo Nagamura is stifling in the midfield with an ability to shut down opposing attackers better than most. Ben Zemanski also has this ability. So do Marcelo Saragosa and Michael Lahoud. But that may be the problem.
Chivas USA have too many defensive midfielders and not enough pure attackers. The departure of Sacha Kljestan left a gaping hole in the Red-and-White offense that has not been filled yet. It shows. Against Philadelphia, Justin Braun and Alan Gordon were often on their own, having to create something out of nothing rather than collecting passes and taking shots.
Vásquez needs to start putting more pressure on his midfielders, particularly Blair Gavin, Jesus Padilla and Rodolfo Espinoza, to be more creative from the middle of the pitch. Without a bit of offensive spark from the midfield, the Chivas USA attack will continue to sputter.