Yesterday, I highlighted the role of Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda in Sunday's win against FC Dallas, but that tells only part of the story. Yes, I think Minda's insertion into the lineup and two-way play made a huge difference on the field, but credit must go to Chivas coach Chelís as well. Not only did the manager merely put Minda into the lineup, he emphasized the style of play instilled during the preseason, and made a few key tweaks in the lineup.
Let's count the key adjustments Chelís made in game two:
- Reintroducing the press: In their first game, Chivas basically forgot about pressing opponents to win back possession. As a result, Columbus was able to waltz around the field with the ball, take their time on making passes, and Chivas forced themselves to wait for an aerial ball or a long ball in order to get possession back. Against Dallas, the pressing style practiced throughout the preseason was back, and it was effective. The Goats looked considerably more confident on the field, and ended up holding the slightest of edges in possession Sunday.
- Lineup changes: From front to back, the boss started Juan Agudelo and Miller Bolanos over Julio Morales and Giovani Casillas. Although Bolaños had a tough game, he still looked far more assured and it should only be a matter of time before he gets firing. Minda replaced Marvin Iraheta as a holding midfielder, and Bobby Burling was the fourth defender on the field, replacing Eric Avila in the lineup. Avila ended up being Chivas' best attacker against the Crew statistically, but shoring up the defense made greater sense to start out.
- Formation adjustments: In both matches, the three-man backline has been incredibly fluid. Against Columbus, Laurent Courtois and Avila were deployed as wingbacks, but Courtois was obviously given the task of man marking Dominic Oduro and so he ended up playing along the back line nearly all his time on the field in that match. With Burling in the lineup against Dallas, Courtois had the freedom to move up, and he showed some moments in the first half, though he couldn't actually get the ball on frame. Burling was nominally pushed up into a midfield position, but from what I could tell, Chelís used a stack system defensively. Burling and Joaquin Velazquez were essentially central defenders, with Burling being pushed slightly forward, and Velazquez being the last man. Walter Vilchez manned the left side, and Mario de Luna the right. It seems pretty unorthodox, but having four defenders on the field was more successful, even if the formation was still unusual.
- Substitutes made a bigger impact: In the first game, Agudelo, Bolaños and Burling entered the game in the second half. The attackers looked more effective, but couldn't actually score. Against FCD, Chelís brought in Jose Correa, Casillas and Avila. Correa had a tough match, but Casillas and Avila picked up the attack and scored the third goal to ice the match for the Goats. Commentators have complained that Chelís has burned his subs early in both matches, but he waited a bit longer this match to bring on his second and third moves, and with a 50/50 success rate so far, the jury is out on whether he's actually doing something wrong. Robin Fraser liked to hold on to subs for no apparent reason at times, and there's no points for saving available subs, so we'll have to come back to the efficacy of Chelís' substitution patterns when there's a larger sample size.
A couple weeks back, I wrote about the omen that the first game has historically provided for Chivas USA. When they win or draw their first match, they make the playoffs, and when they lose the first game, they don't qualify. They lost their first game, so history would suggest they won't make it this year, but it is way, way too early to even think about that. I did go back and look at the second game in those years when Chivas dropped the season opener, and this year is the first time they won their second match. Two games don't indicate the trajectory of a season, but Chelís showed that he has the capability to bounce back from a loss and drill his players into making necessary adjustments. That has to be a promising sign moving deeper into this 2013 season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!