KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 21: Kei Kamara scored the winner last week for SKC - how will Chivas neutralize him and his team? (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
The hits just keep coming, as they say, and following the fantastic 1-0 win by Chivas USA over Real Salt Lake this past weekend, the Goats will be hosting Sporting Kansas City Sunday. If there was a single table in the league, as opposed to the Conference format and unbalanced schedule, Sporting currently leads the league, with full points from a maximum three matches. Meanwhile, Chivas sit in 14th overall. In a brutal Western Conference, Chivas sit at the bottom, while in the overall table there are currently five Eastern Conference clubs sitting below them, four of them on three games played.
Needless to say, Sporting Kansas City will be yet another tough opponent for Chivas this week. While there is considerable confidence to come from last week's win, Chivas will have another difficult game ahead of them. And much like RSL in 2011, Chivas played SKC quite well last year, although they only got one point out of the two games. So the question heading into the match will be a familiar one around these parts - what formation and tactics will Robin Fraser use against KC?Although the Goats still need to build their attack, as they were fortunate to get their lone goal of the season in many respects, it makes sense for Chivas to use a defensive gameplan yet again. It helps that they will be facing an opponent which shares a lot in common with their previous opponents this season. Between the dead ball capabilities of Graham Zusi and the long throw-ins from Matt Besler, SKC are very dangerous on set pieces, a consistent problem historically for Chivas. They have a potent attack through the forward line and midfield, similar to the Vancouver Whitecaps and RSL.
SKC has very talented forwards, with Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong leading the line with Teal Bunbury away with the USMNT U23s, but young forwards Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer have also shown promise in limited minutes. Zusi is capable of shooting absolute rockets, both on free kicks and in the run of play. New addition Bobby Convey brings a dynamism on the wing that should help improve KC's attack even further, and defenders Besler and Aurelien Collin also chip in with goals and assists from time to time.
SKC is renowned for using a 4-3-3 formation under coach Peter Vermes. Is there any chance Fraser will deviate from the 4-5-1 formation he's favored?
Strictly speaking, the formation has been tweaked a little over three weeks. Although the Goats have rolled out a lone striker up top to start all three matches, Fraser has balanced the wings and started Ryan Smith on the right and Laurent Courtois on the left the last two matches. So while all three attackers demonstrated some defense while Chivas were under siege Saturday against RSL, it means Fraser has gone from devoting two players to offense in the opening match to three. That honestly doesn't sound like much, but it means the formation could also be called a 4-3-2-1 or 4-2-3-1 depending on what Nick LaBrocca does.
And much like last season, LaBrocca may be the key to jumpstarting Chivas' attack, unless Fraser decides to bring in more offensive-minded players, such as Miller Bolanos. There's no question LaBrocca commands more respect from opponents compared to this point last season, and he had difficulty dealing with extra attention when opposing teams started marking him closely. His destiny may ultimately be as a two-way midfielder, but with the ultra-defensive formation and tactics so far, that have garnered mixed results, "Nick the Quick" may need to step up and give the attack more dynamism through the middle. With Peter Vagenas very much a defensive midfielder and Oswaldo Minda acquitting himself better on the defensive end than in the attack so far, LaBrocca will be expected to lead the attack if Chivas are going to continue using the same formation.
Is there a chance we could see two forwards up top, or an all-out attacking 4-3-3? I suppose, but it seems very unlikely. Especially after Fraser's gameplan worked against RSL, I doubt we'll see anything different against SKC. If it leads to points, though, who cares? This team needs results, however they can get them.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!