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.

Inside El Chelís’ mind; loves RSL fans, coached soccer to ‘hide’

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For MLS fans across the country, Chivas USA have certainly caught your attention more than ever before this season.

And that’s down to one man: José Luis Sánchez Solá.

Better known in the soccer world as El Chelís, the 54-year-old Chivas USA head coach has been brought in to help the Goats climb up the MLS standings and compete.

The season started off swimmingly, with Chivas winning three from their first five. Harder times have followed of late, with Steve Davis asking in this very blog over the weekend if we are know seeing the “real” Chivas USA.

But one thing is for sure, their charismatic and eccentric leader isn’t afraid to speak his mind. MLS have released part 1 of the series titled “Inside the mind of El Chelis” to try and find out exactly what is going on up there.

Failing businesses turned El Chelís to soccer coaching and he hasn’t looked back since. Some real gems come out of this video below, with the Mexican coach always good for some classic quotes.

“The owner brought me in here because I’m convenient for him. And he’s convenient for me, because he pays me money. Our relationship is based on convenience, he pays me and I deliver football results.”

So sit back, watch the video below and enjoy the man who makes Chivas USA tick. And don’t worry Real Salt Lake fans, he has nothing but good things to say about you guys… “I have never seen a whole stadium singing one song when their team scored. I wanted them to score another one.”

The “real” Chivas USA may be breaking through

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Are we seeing the real Chivas USA reveal itself? Was that fast start in the Jose Luis “El Chelis” Sanchez Sola reign the stuff of smoke and mirrors. Are the Goats turning back into the disheveled lot we all expected them to be prior to a stunning March?

It’s starting to look like it.

Sunday’s battering at Sporting Park outside Kansas City is the latest evidence. In a word for the visitors: “Yuk.”

It finished at 4-0, and the Goats were never really in it. Some shoddy work in the back led to a give-away that SKC turned into a first-half goal. Later, Graham Zusi’s good work in the midfield sprung Paulo Nagamura, who was brought down for a penalty kick and a 2-0 SKC lead. And … well, you get the idea.

The one caveat is that Dan Kennedy should not have been expelled from this one, and three of the goals landed after the Goats’ outstanding ‘keeper walked off. Still, total shots on goals for Chivas USA: zero. Final edge in shots for the home team: 16-3.

(MORE: The ref got it wrong by showing red to Kennedy)

The Goats have not won since March. At 3-4-2 they are not sixth in the West, a lot closer to where we all thought they would be when the scrambled egg of a first season under “Chelis” began. We can pick apart anybody’s wins and losses, of course. But if we peel back the cover on Chivas’ trio of Ws this year, they are quite suspicious.

  • One win came over FC Dallas in Week 2, before Schellas Hyndman’s team got its midfield sorted out; the visitors from Texas were, simply put, pretty lousy in keeping much shape that day.
  • One win came over a Chicago side that was a complete mess then. It was easily the best “W” of the Chelis era, a 4-1 battering delivered on the road at Toyota Park. Credit for seizing opportunity, of course, but Chicago really was in a bad way then. Frank Klopas’ team from Illinois has stabilized a bit since then. Just a bit.
  • A 2-1 win over Vancouver wasn’t bad for Chivas. Then again, the Whitecaps are pretty lousy on the road, 0-4-1 this year and 3-26-10 since joining MLS. So there’s that.

Your surprise MLS team in March: gotta be Chivas USA

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Apologies to Montreal, and to FC Dallas as well. But, seriously, where is this coming from?

Montreal finally landed on the wrong end of a result in 2013, falling Saturday for the first time in five matches under its new coach.

So the official prize for Major League Soccer shocker team of March – no, don’t be silly, there isn’t actually a prize per se – is Chivas USA.

Jose Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá finished his first month in charge of matches with a 2-1 win over Vancouver. The Whitecaps have had their issues on the road, historically, so that must be said. Still, what Chelis has accomplished over five matches is nothing short of outstanding. As our dear blogging friends from The Goat Parade said of Chivas USA, “nearly all of MLS considered them DOA this year.”

(Here is where myself and others humbly eat our crow; given the Chivas USA past, mostly one fiasco after another, with intermittent bursts of mostly individual success, we all went “Show Me State” on this one. In other words, the Goats had long lost the benefit of the doubt. Well, Chelis is helping to restore it, along with pride and confidence around L.A.’s second team.)

The Goats awaken today in second place in the West, behind only similarly surprising FC Dallas. (In fact, FC Dallas’ only loss was to Chelis and Chivas USA back in Round 2.)

Young attacker Eric Avila (pictured above), who never quite found a starting role in previous stops in Dallas and Toronto, scored a crackerjack goal Saturday. Always talented, he now seems to be flourishing under Chelis.

And speaking of young player flourish: rookie Carlos “Chivas at Heart” Alvarez helped set up the Goats’ first strike, officially an own goal.

Of concern was an injury to Juan Agudelo that deserves checking up on this week. Meanwhile, enjoy the highlights from last night’s late win over Vancouver, as the Chelis era at Chivas USA gains increasing confidence and steam:

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How glad is Chivas USA that Juan Agudelo didn’t get called for U.S. national team duty?

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Juan Agudelo was surely disappointed not to be called by Jurgen Klinsmann for the latest pair of World Cup qualifiers. He’s still young, of course, just 20 years old. But Agudelo already has 17 caps, and debuted with the full side at 18 years old more than two years ago. So it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Goats striker named when U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann announced his latest round of selections a year ago.

Chivas USA would surely have been proud – but pride doesn’t score the goals. Not exactly, anyway.

Thus, Agudelo (pictured) was around to hit a wonderful goal, and to and supply a very intelligent assist on Edgar Mejia’s opener for the surprising Goats.

Chivas USA’s 4-1 win at chilly Toyota Park was Major League Soccer’s only match Sunday.

That’s the other big story here, the ongoing success for Chivas USA, which finds itself today sitting tied for second in the West. That’s hardly where most of us (*raises hand, pleading guilty as sin*) saw this thing going. It’s early, but last week’s draw with Los Angeles when playing so long a man down, and now a win in the team’s first road match under Jose (“Chelis”) Luis Sanchez Sola sure looks good.

(There is one other story angle here, from the other side. … But let’s take a look at Chicago and the woeful Fire start Monday.)

Here’s Agudelo’s technically perfect, curling ball around Fire backup goalkeeperPaolo Tornaghi:

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