Know Your Enemy: Chivas USA - 3/10

Goats are a work in progress under new manager Chelis

chivas XI 2013

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Images

Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.

One of the toughest teams to figure out right now in Major League Soccer may be Chivas USA. FC Dallas heads to Los Angeles to face the new-look Chivas squad on Sunday evening.

The Goats went through a major change during the offseason with new manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, or Chelis, taking over as head coach.

Chelis and Chivas went back to their roots by going with a more Mexican-American flavor to their squad. They brought in five players from Chivas de Guadalajara and a slew of Latino players via discovery signings.

But all of the talk in the preseason was how Chivas was exporting players like Shalrie Joseph or James Riley for very little in the trade market. Chivas went from having several veteran MLS players on the roster to just a small handful. 

So far the results haven’t been great. Chivas lost their season opener last week 3-0 to the Columbus Crew, a result that Chivas players will tell you was misleading. Chelis was quick to tell reporters after the game that the defense was not the issue; it was the attack that couldn’t muster up the chances to keep them in the game.

“Every time we played straight up with our three-man backline, they didn’t succeed. That’s evident,” Sánchez Solá told reporters following the Columbus game. “That’s not the problem. The problem is having the necessary weapons to attack and put the ball in net.”

Dallas hopes that they can keep the Chivas attack at bay for another week while putting pressure on the three-man back line.

Key Matchup

Dallas attack vs Dan Kennedy – Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy has been a thorn in the side for FC Dallas over the last couple of seasons. Last year he practically stood on his head against Brek Shea, this year he’ll have the whole attack to contend with.

Key Player for Chivas

Julio Morales – He was subbed off at halftime last week against Columbus but before that he was arguably the most dangerous player on the field for Chivas on the night. He had one breakaway that nearly led to a goal.

Injury Watch

Not too many injuries listed right now for Chivas. Jorge Villagana is questionable with an ankle sprain but other than that Chelis has a fairly healthy squad to work with these days.

Projected Lineup

Chelis used a 3-5-2 formation last week against Columbus and he intends on sticking with it again this week. Mario de Luna, Joaquín Velázquez and Wálter Vílchez formed the three-man backline to start the match, while Bobby Burling came on in the 56th minute to help improve the defensive look.

In all, seven players made debuts last week for Chivas with some possible changes coming this week.

Goalkeeper: Dan Kennedy; RB: Bobby Burling, CB: Walter Vilchez, LB: Mario de Luna; DM: Laurent Courtois; CM: Edgar Mejia, Marvin Iraheta; LM: Miller Bolanos; RM: Eric Avila; FW: Julio Morales, Tristan Bowen

Keys to three points

This is a simple one for FC Dallas, gaining three points and confidence in their first road trip of the season is big. Last week’s 1-0 win over Colorado wasn’t pretty but at least it was something to build off of in the end.

FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman will need more out of his midfield in terms of possession and passes forward to Kenny Cooper and Fabian Castillo.

Chivas is a team that likes to string lots of passes together before they hit the final ball forward. Keeping a strong midfield line with Andrew Jacobson and Je-Vaughn Watson will be key in the middle for Dallas. Keeping some composure too will go a long way as well - last week Chivas earned five yellow cards on the night against Columbus – Dallas might expect a physical game as well on Sunday.

Lastly, spreading Chivas out and forcing balls down the middle of the defense from the wings will help. Columbus was able to work the width of the field well last week, which helped set up chances in the end. Dallas can do a similar thing with Jackson and David Ferreira on the wings, which should lead to better chances on goal.