Analyzing the ills of Chivas USA on the field

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I tend to take a public fleecing whenever I write about Chivas USA. Something about how I have it in for the little Goats, how I only write about bad things happening around the club, etc.

Of course I have written nice things here and there. But pretty things to fawn over are just so doggone hard to find with this club; it’s like looking for true wisdom on The Learning Channel.

So as we analyze what has gone wrong for the Goats, now 3-6-1 and positioned bottom of the West, I’ll let the Chivas USA experts take over. I listened in on the What the Flock podcast (find it here through the link at The Goat Parade blog), devoted to all things Chivas USA.  And before we get into the whys and wherefores, how about this from one of the trio of Goat blogger-podcasters:

This team is destroying my marriage. It’s destroying the relationship with my kids. The voices in my head  are all whack … I need muscle relaxers.”

Yes, that’s a good place to start.

The feel like Jose (“Chelis”) Luis Sanchez Sola has failed to adapt to MLS in too many way. His personnel does not reflect the physical nature of the league. Chivas’ young players are technically adept, but far from prepared for a league where brute force still too often rules.

Nor has Chelis seemed to adapt his broader tactics. Chivas USA remains married to that three-man back line, which gets repeatedly exploited for playing so dangerously high up the field.

Teams generally don’t play three in the back in MLS, although it has been done, notably by some of Steve Nicol’s better teams at New England a few years back.

But to roll with three in the read and play so high requires speed, something in dreadfully short supply around the Home Depot Center’s second tenant. Bobby Burling, for instance, may be a reasonably equipped defender – but he just doesn’t have the recovery speed to play that far up the field without sufficient cover.

(MORE: Chelis increasingly sounds like a man broken by Chivas)

The Goat Parade’s Alicia Ratterree sees an offense now showing signs of life, with just a little more of a plan and perhaps even some rhythm slowing creeping in. But it all falls apart due to that overmatched defense – because what offense can reliably produce the three or four goals a game that seem to be needed?

She also mentions the lack of a midfield destroyer, which is exactly what I saw during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.

That dubious strategy of playing such a high, three-man backline only has a chance if the midfield can apply constant pressure, and a cop on the ball-winning beat in there, some Osvaldo Alonso-type hunter, would be a great start.

Said Rodriguez: “On the one had the attack got going, and on the other hand the defense is brutal.”

(MORE: Connecting false dots with David Beckham and Chivas USA)

They crack wise on the point that that this coaching regime (under Chelis) is doing things quite differently than the last coaching regime (Robin Fraser), which was doing things quite differently than the previous coaching regime (Martin Vasquez) … and yet the results look remarkably, painfully similar.

And then there is the Juan Agudelo trade. The trio discusses recent reports that Chivas USA got no more than $75,000 in allocation money for the young U.S. international, a pretty bad deal, even if Agudelo does cruise overseas at the end of the MLS season.

Said Rodriguez:

For the kind of talent he is, and if you watch even just the highlights his first game with New England, he played phenomenally … He showed his impact right away with his new team.

“I can see why theoretically you could want to get some value for a player who is not going to stick around for long. But as far as getting results on the field, it seems to have been a disastrous move. Ever since he came out of the [Chivas] lineup when he got hurt, that’s when the attack fell apart. … It was certainly puzzling.”

So there you go. They said it. I didn’t have to.

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

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Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.

Juventus suffers blow with apparent Higuain injury

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The back-and-forth battle at the top of Serie A continued on Sunday as Juventus topped Torino at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, however, the visitors suffered a big injury scare in the process.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup ]

Alex Sandro‘s winner came in the 33rd minute, but the focus of the match will leave all eyes on Gonzalo Higuain — who exited after just a quarter of an hour.

The Argentine international was looking to latch onto a through ball from Miralem Pjanic in the fifth minute, before jumping over an oncoming Salvatore Sirigu — goalkeeper for Torino.

Higuain appeared to land awkwardly on his ankle, though, and while he attempted to continue on in the match he was substituted off for Federico Bernardeschi 10 minutes later.

The extent of Higuain’s injury is unknown to this point, however, it comes at a very bad time for Juventus.

The Italian giants are heavily involved in the Serie A title race, holding a two-point lead over Napoli at the top of the table.

Additionally, Juve has important fixtures coming up in both the Coppa Italia and Champions League against Atalanta and Tottenham, respectively. Higuain and Co. are level at 2-2 with Spurs heading into their UCL second leg in early March, and Juve will surely need the striker’s presence to have a shot at advancing to the quarterfinals.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.