Chivas USA have hit a new low point in the season, as they have tumbled to the basement of the Western Conference following their 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes and the Portland Timbers 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders. Chivas and Portland now sit level on points with 28, but Chivas are listed in last place, presumably because they have scored fewer goals than the Timbers (21 to 28).
So where do the Goats go from here? Obviously, they have seven more games this season, so there could be some movement back up the standings yet, although they've only earned two points in their last seven matches. But let's explore some of the possibilities.
We all know this team is a work in progress, and so the final seven matches could be used to continue to find solutions for the various problems the team has had this year. Especially if Robin Fraser is coming back next season, he could be using this time to try and figure out some of the issues with an eye on next year. Certainly most of the first-teamers have had bright spots in 2012, so why not continue to see who is really a cut above the rest of the roster, and figure out how they can get back on track? It may be an unsatisfying way to finish the season, but it could provide a boost for at least some of the starters ahead of 2013.
Strategy 2: Play some of the younger players
If it's broken, why continue playing the same players? Why not give some of the younger guys a chance? To a degree, that's already happening in the attack, with Juan Agudelo, Casey Townsend, Miller Bolanos and Tristan Bowen getting a lot of minutes lately. Although the goals aren't coming in bunches, all of those players have looked dangerous and are building chemistry together, although they still have work to do on that front.
And considering the youth on the team, Cesar Romero, Paolo Cardozo, Jose Correa, Marvin Iraheta, and Marky Delgado could also benefit from the time on the field. To a certain extent, I think the current rotation has been positive up top, and the only player to really have gotten frozen out is Correa, who has certainly shown he has the potential to be a dependable scorer, if he's given consistent minutes and good service. Still, giving the youngsters' reps could be good for their development, especially if Chivas look likely to lose anyway. In other words, would you rather lose with Juan Pablo Angel and Alejandro Moreno starting, or with the young players starting?
The downside is that there aren't any real young defenders waiting in the wings, with the possible exception of Jorge Villafana. If Chivas had some young defenders, this could be a good chance to see them get action. They would almost certainly make mistakes, but that's part of the process, and better to give them teaching moments when the team has nothing to play for than when there's something major on the line. Bobby Burling hasn't played much, but that's because he was signed late in the season. He and Rauwshan McKenzie are younger than Danny Califf and John Valencia, but they aren't exactly "young." And there's no backup to James Riley, which continues to be a frightening fact. Fortunately, Riley has been up to play every minute this season.
Strategy 3: Does it matter?
I think there are merits to either of the first two approaches, but the key question is whether Robin Fraser is going to be around next year. If he isn't, this team is set up for yet another rebuilding project, and key players with the current group may be on the outs regardless of their relative merit. There's been no official indication that Fraser's job is in jeopardy, but the ownership shift coupled with Chivas' terrible form to end the season for the second straight year means that Fraser's job has to be in doubt beyond this season. One would hope he would work as though he was continuing with the team in 2013, and figure out one strategy or another to do productive work for the remainder of the season even if the overall project on the year was a failure. But if he is out after the season, this lame duck period won't really mean a great deal to the vast majority of incoming coaches, who want their own players, especially for a team at or near the bottom of the standings.
At the moment, we can't know what this team will look like in 2013, but they need to find a way to be productive in one way or another with the final seven games of the season. If that means continuing to work for wins, work on building the skills of the first team, or to develop the younger players, fine. But there has to be some strategy.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!