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.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — England, Colombia back in action

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Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Sunday, with England back in action and in need of three points — and a resounding win — to keep pace with Belgium in Group G.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Following Belgium’s 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia — the same side that England beat in stoppage time earlier in the week — on Saturday, the Red Devils have positioned themselves perfectly to win the group with a draw against the Three Lions on Thursday. England need a five-goal victory at 6-1 or higher to the finish top of the group following a draw on the final day.

Then, it’s a pair of Group H fixtures, kicked off with Japan (1st) versus Senegal (2nd) — both of whom won their first game — followed by Poland (3rd) versus Colombia (4th).

Below is Sunday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Sunday, June 24

Group G
England vs. Panama: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group H
Japan vs. Senegal: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Colombia: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

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FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion”

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At 1-0 down, they were headed for elimination in the group stage (with a game still to play); once level at 1-1, they faced yet a steep hill to climb on the final day of the group stage; after Toni Kroos scored his stunning 94th-minute winner, Joachim Low could finally exhale and imagine himself managing the German national team for another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Cup was, for most intents and purposes, a worrying performance for the defending world champions. Fortunately for Low and Co., the one place in which their comeback dramatic victory was a raging success is the only one that matters: the Group F table, where Die Mannschaft currently (somehow) sit second and control their own destiny — quotes from the BBC:

“This was a thriller, full of emotion, right up until the final whistle. Brandt hit the goal post just three minutes before the end too. We took out a defensive player and brought on an attacking player because we knew had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.

“We had a couple of great chances — Mario Gomez’s header being one of them. The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. We’ve had these situations in other tournaments as well. For the viewers that’s part of the attractiveness of football.”

“Something I did appreciate today was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down. We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.

“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”

There’s still plenty of work to do for one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites — there’s a little matter of needing to beat, or at the very least, best Sweden’s result against Mexico — but that can wait until tomorrow, because Saturday unexpectedly became all about survival.

Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination

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Germany dodged a fatal bullet on Saturday, coming back from a goal down to Sweden to steal a 2-1 victory at the 2018 World Cup and keep their world title defense alive… barely.

For all of 16 minutes — plus halftime — the Germans were in line to be eliminated with one Group F game still to play, but ultimately, Ola Toivonen‘s unlikely opener was canceled out by Marco Reus in very short order after the restart, and Toni Kroos broke Swedish hearts in the 94th.

Put another way, Joachim Loew survives to manage another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Sweden felt massively aggrieved to have not been awarded a penalty kick in the 17th minute, when Jerome Boateng took out the legs of Marcus Berg as he bore down on an out-rushing Manuel Neuer. The combination of leg-to-leg contact and a strong push in the back appeared an obvious error for the video-assistant referee to right a wrong, but the call never came.

The opening goal was the direct result of a careless giveaway by Kroos near the center circle, and needed just three touches and two passes to cut through the German defense and spring Toivonen behind Antonio Rudiger. The finish, a perfectly weighted dink — perhaps aided by the slightest of deflections by Rudiger — left Neuer with no chance (WATCH HERE).

Then, with the final touch of the first half, Berg glanced a header from a free kick that was destined to his the inside netting at the far post, but Neuer redefined the phrase “at full stretch” to keep the scoreline 1-1.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

That save proved invaluable for Joachim Loew’s side, as Marco Reus pulled the defending world champions level less than three minutes into the second half. Timo Werner dribbled to the endline and cut the ball back toward the penalty spot, and Reus got on the end of the deflected cross and struck it home with his knee. A semblance of order restored.

Bedlam ensued in the final 15 minutes, as Boateng was sent off for a second yellow card and Neuer lost his footing while scrambling across the face of goal to make a save, only narrowly preserving the 1-1 scoreline. Robin Olsen one-upped Neuer in the 88th minute, rising to his crossbar to punch Mario Gomez’s header just over.

In the fourth of five minutes of second-half stoppage time, Kroos became the hero. From a nearly impossible angle on the left side of the penalty area, Kroos rolled the ball forward to Reus on the restart, creating an ever so slightly wider angle from which to curl his shot toward the far post. It worked to perfection.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Germany (3 points) will finish group play against fourth-place South Korea (0 points) on Wednesday, while Sweden (3 points) will face Mexico (6 points), who had clinched their place in the knockout rounds until Germany’s late winner.