Know Your Enemy: Club Deportivo Chivas USA
OTF’s Stephen Mangat brings you the información you need on las cabras de Los Angeles…
Whether pulling Thor’s chariot, being the manifestation of Satan, or serving as the lower half of the Greek god of the wild, goats occupy an interesting place in our world. They’re also Chicago Fire’s opponent this weekend. So sit back, turn up the volume, hit the play button and let’s get to know Chivas USA…
PLAY OUR MUSIC!!!
First and foremost, who are Chivas USA? The ignored offspring of a Mexican billionaire? The harbinger of the Reconquista of California? The Clippers/Mets of the MLS? Whatever they may be, the Goats are not to be taken lightly.
With canny, professional wrestling manager-esque José Luis Sánchez Solá (“El Chelis”) running the show, this Chivas team seems to be a departure from the shambolic unit of recent years. In their three games (all in LA), they got hammered by Columbus, swatted Dallas aside, and drew with the Galaxy. Not too shabby – especially considering it takes time to integrate new players and a new coach.
Chelis hasn’t figured it all out yet (sound familiar Fire fans?). Of the Goats’ 27 rostered players, 19 have played this season. More than likely, Chivas will employ a flexible formation with two defensively placed central midfielders, three central-ish backs and two wingbacks getting up and down the flanks. If anything, the nominal 3-5-2 is a rarity that will make this game interesting.
Dan Kennedy is very solid, if unspectacular. Last season, he was an MLS all-star, runner-up for Goalkeeper of the Year, and team MVP for the second year running. Some of this is probably due to having a boatload of shots to save thanks to a pretty bad 2012 Chivas team. Nonetheless, he made the saves and won’t give Chicago any free goals – something the Fire could certainly use.
You’ll probably see Mario de Luna, Joaquin Velazquez, and Bobby Burling in the back. Velazquez is a vet and played for Chelis in Mexico. De Luna is on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara. Burling is a big guy who’s a bit of an MLS journeyman.
Chelis’s experimentation with lineups means I don’t have a good idea of who will start. Nonetheless, the central midfield three will play close together and will be very aggressive. Keep an eye out for who plays on the wings, as this should determine how and where Chivas will attack. One wingback should attack (Miller Bolanos or Laurent Courtois) and another will defend (Wilson Vilchez or Eric Avila). At the same time though, it appears Avila can get forward if needed, so hopefully Frank Klopas and his players will be mentally aware and quickly figure out what the Goats are up to.
Juan Agudelo will be up top with a player to be named later. The early hype surrounding Agudelo has worn off a bit, but much is still expected of him by fans and the team. Nonetheless, Agudelo has yet to develop into an “every game for the whole game” player, and many are hoping (expecting?) he plays to his potential and establishes himself as one of the league’s top goalscorers this season.
How can Chicago win?
Draw them in and let it fly
If Chivas presses as intensely as they are instructed, Chicago will have little time on the ball. Too many short passes will result in overwhelming pressure on the Fire, so when in possession Chicago should make a few short passes, invite the pressure (and the players), and then go long. Space should be available wide and deep (see below) and Chivas’s players will be bypassed. Do this a few times and it’ll put the Goats on their heels and allow the Fire to play a bit more.
Go after the back three
Playing three central defenders with wingbacks providing cover on the outside means that space should be available for Chicago on the flanks. Also, if Klopas plays two forwards, one of them should be one-on-one with a defender so long as intelligent runs are made. Chivas’s extra men in the midfield means fewer men in the back. With a little vision, smart running, and measured passing, the Fire can go long and direct.
Play with some balls
Chelis is trying to mold this team into a hard-running, fighting unit. It’ll be a process, but it seems he has Chivas headed in that direction. So Chicago can’t back down from this challenge, especially at home. While skill and quality are paramount, toughness can elevate any team above their talent level. Chelis won’t accept anything less than full commitment, so the Fire will need to get physical.
So good luck Chicago fans. It may not be a pretty game, but I’m guessing it’ll be entertaining.
OTF’s Stephen Mangat cherishes his Olivia Newton-John record collection. Follow him @smangat12