Last week, Chivas USA opened their 2013 MLS campaign, and came away with a tough loss. The jitters were on display from the first minute, and the team struggled to execute their gameplan all match. As was pretty obvious to those who saw the starting lineup prior to the game, the team was light not only on veterans of Chivas USA (only three returning players from 2012 started the match) but also veterans of MLS (Eric Avila was an MLS vet who was making his CUSA debut). In that respect, it didn't seem surprising that the team could struggle, and as I wrote earlier this week, the Columbus Crew had the experience and the savvy to know exactly how to play in the league against a less-experienced opponent.
The goal this week, in their second match of the season, has to be to maintain poise on the field. I went back and rewatched the match, and while the team did improve over the course of the game, it still wasn't enough to get a result. All of the players on the field need to remember to play with poise.
Although Columbus did try to do exactly what I anticipated, by throwing bodies at Chivas' three-man backline, the Goats dealt with the pressure well enough for most of the game. Yes, they let in three goals, but putting Laurent Courtois as a man marker for speedy forward Dominic Oduro helped neutralize him for most of the game (well, at least until the 94th minute, and Courtois had been taken off by then). Courtois obviously doesn't have the speed of Oduro, but he did exactly what he needed in order to keep him off the scoresheet.
With the defense under pressure, the tendency was for the defense and Dan Kennedy to boot the ball up the field to relieve the pressure. On one hand, players have to do what they must in order to take care of the immediate threat. However, booting the ball 40 yards upfield to the opponent does not constitute a playing style that anyone was expecting. After being told all preseason that the players were going to play exciting attacking soccer, and then see the exact opposite happen in the first match, it was obviously disappointing.
You may recall former Chivas coach Robin Fraser practically fetishized possession-based soccer, and it led to few results. Obviously, holding onto the ball alone does not a successful team make. But in order to start the Chelís era in earnest, the team needs to competently hold onto the ball and string together some forward movement as a team on a consistent basis. The team has been working on their attack this week in practice, and Chelís closing today's practice to the public means they may make some adjustments ahead of Sunday's game against FC Dallas. Still, whether it is offense or defense, good officiating or bad, the team has to make sure they have poise, individually and as a group, in order to improve on Saturday's performance.
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