Defensive lapses lead to Chivas USA's downfall

Fraser: Team still work in progress, better than scoreline showed

CARSON, Calif. – The preseason may be over, but under head coach Robin Fraser, Chivas USA remain a work in progress.

The Rojiblancos put on a valiant effort to come back from an early two-goal deficit at the half, but fell just short in their 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. With a new head coach, a new defensive-minded system, and a bevy of new players, Fraser admitted that his club is still amidst a period of self discovery.

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“We’re still in the process of finding our identity and finding just who we are,” said Fraser after the match. “It was one of those situations where we looked at what we were showing and said, ‘We’re better than what is on the scoreboard and we were able to play with some urgency and I was proud of the response.’”

While the Rojiblancos responded to the challenge in the second 45, the first part of the match was marred with uncharacteristic mistakes from a backline that had been solid. On Omar Bravo’s two goals, it appeared as though the relatively new grouping of Ante Jazic, Jimmy Conrad, Zarek Valentin and Heath Pearce – all four played together just twice during preseason – struggled to communicate, which allowed Sporting to capitalize.

This breakdown in communication led to a lapse in concentration, particularly on the second goal, when Bravo doubled Sporting’s lead seconds before halftime.

During the 2010 season, Chivas USA frequently struggled at the end of matches to maintain concentration, but Conrad assured that lapses in concentration would not become commonplace for the new Rojiblancos.

“I thought that we could have done a little bit better and the goal for us defensively is to put out fires before they start, and we didn’t do a good enough job to do that,” said Conrad, author of one of Chivas USA's goals. “We’d like to be perfect and we’re trying to be, but we still need to improve.”

And while the defense may have had its struggles, on the offensive end of things, Chivas USA were able to score two goals off of corner kicks, which was nearly unheard of last season, when the Rojiblancos scored on set pieces just twice.

Most, if not all of the credit, goes to newly acquired Argentine midfielder Marcos Mondaini, who performed admirably during 70 minutes on the pitch.

Throughout the match, Mondaini was able to make penetrating runs into the Sporting defense, combining well with fellow midfielder Nick LaBrocca. In his first match in MLS, the Argentine midfielder appeared unfazed with the physicality of the game, which allowed him to dictate the tempo and control possession, something that the Rojiblancos were able to do for wide stretches of the second half.

However, while Mondaini may have been a threat, the Rojiblancos received little help from forwards Alejandro Moreno and Justin Braun, who were unable to make a major impact in the match.

Fraser stated that there were flashes of potential for the offense, but it is still currently in the process of coming together as a unit.

“The way that our team is, we did a fair job of possessing into the attacking end and if we do that, we’ll find gaps and seams for players like Alejandro to get in behind defenses,” he said. “But, I don’t see us having a 20-goal scorer. I see us having a number of eight, nine, seven goal scorers.

“But there is no clear-cut person like a Taylor Twellman on this team. It’s going to have be goals by committee.”

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano