BY CHRISTIAN ARAOS
Staff Writer, MLS
After a chaotic and bizarre offseason, Chivas USA were picked by many (including myself) to be last in the Western Conference and the butt of many jokes.
A 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew in a sparsely populated Home Depot Center to start the season made those opinions look prophetic. Two games and four points later, Chivas now find themselves fourth in the West.
Can they stay there?
All of their points come from losing positions; a sign of grit and determination. All of their goals came after the 65th minute; also a sign of grit but bearing a hint of potential difficulties in the attack. While the mental aspects are there for Chivas to at least not be regarded as cupcakes, it is a stretch to say that they will contend.
Tactically, the three man defense has worked in the last two games because both FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy each rolled out a 4-4-2. As long as Chivas has three at the back, there will always be a spare man to cover for the other two defenders. These defenders are also allowed to press their attackers which has mixed results. In the first minute of their game against Dallas, Chivas got caught pressing with a high line and were bailed out by Dan Kennedy.
While Kennedy and the spare defender are invaluable assets in defense, Chivas’ big issue is a lack of creativity. Two of the three assists recorded come from defenders (as illustrated above). Edgar Meija, the only midfielder with an assist, tallied his on a 3 v 1 break in stoppage time against Dallas. Using Opta Chalkboard, Chivas’ midfield has only provided three key passes in the last two games. This puts the workload on forward Juan Agudelo who has had to drift away from his center forward position in order to orchestrate the attack.
In other words, the 20-year old is working as a false nine. It is a difficult role for even the most established forwards; having a 20-year old do it makes it all the more difficult.
Of course, Chelis is the great equalizer. If he can get this young team to fully buy into what his plans are, then they will find ways to get points. In a league like MLS where anything can happen on a weekly basis, it is perfectly possible for a team like Chivas to linger in the Western Conference.
That being said, they just don’t have enough talent to overtake some of the bigger teams in that conference.
Watching them play unaware of that fact is what is going to make this season fun.