Five Games In: Chivas USA's Defensive Evaluation

Defense: What are the comparisons so far? - USA TODAY Sports

In part one of a three-part series, the Goat Parade examines the first five games under El Chelis. Today, we look at the defense.

With five games in the books and Chivas USA getting a break this weekend, we thought it would be instructive to look at what has been happening in those games. This is the first part of three in a series this week, with defense coming first. I've called upon Rachna and Alicia to provide some analysis to go with my statistics.

CIBs--Clearances, Interceptions and Blocks

Using the first five games of 2012 as a measuring stick isn't a foolproof measure; Despite being statistically the worst defensive team in MLS, Chivas USA actually getting off to a relatively decent start compared to last year. But it's worth noting Andrew Wiebe of MLSsoccer.com wrote Chivas were third-worst in Clearances, Interceptions and Blocks over the course of the entire 2012 season. So let's start there with significant gains across the board.

Clearances Block Shots Interceptions
2012 100 10 78
2013 146 18 112
Diff +46 +8 +34

Analysis:

Alicia: What a difference a year makes. Chivas' defense was pretty strong in the first handful of games last season, if I recall, they just lost several games 1-0, so it made them look bad. In contrast, this year's vintage is doing much better. I say for now we ride it out.

Fending off the Attack

Is the Chivas USA defensively better in 2013 than in 2012? If you go by the traditional method of judging defenses then that would be a "No." Opponent attempts on goal have risen 22% and while Chivas defenders have nearly doubled the number of blocked shots, the team has allowed more shots and goals as well.

Goals Allowed Attempts on Goal Shots on Target Shots off Target Blocked Shots Total Shots
2012 4 68 24 33 10 57
2013 7 83 30 35 18 65
+3 +15 +6 +2 +8 +8

Analysis:

Alicia: To me, this contrast seems pretty inconsequential at this point. The sample size isn't big, so it isn't surprising that the differentials are relatively close (with only attempts on goal seeming to be an outlier). Also, don't forget that Chivas played down a man in the LA Galaxy game for more than a half, and in that match and the latter part of last week's win over Vancouver, they were under siege for sustained periods. Obviously, doing that on a regular basis would seem to be a recipe for disaster, but sometimes, that's just how the game goes.

Disrupting the Build-Up

Duels are an Opta stat described as "as 50-50 contests between opposing players in which one players emerges successful." More succinctly, OptaHunt wrote on Big D Soccer: "If a defensive player wins a duel, he has effectively snuffed the attack."

But in order to win a duel, you must actually engage the opponent. Under Chelís, Chivas USA has been much more aggressive in trying to the pry the ball from the opponent by attempting 93 more duels. So far it's yielded 94 more turnovers (as OptaHunt wrote the hope is that the defender didn't immediately turn the ball back over).

What does this mean? Interestingly, Chivas USA have ceded the possession game yet sharply curtailed opponents' passes and accuracy.

Total Duels Duels Lost Duels Lost % Passes Conceded Passing Accuracy % Opp. Possession
2012 406 187 46% 2198 79% 49.90%
2013 499 281 59% 1854 74% 53.90%
+93 +94 +13% -344 -5% +4%

Analysis:

Alicia: I'm actually shocked about this. In my cursory review of the full game stats every week, I usually linger on duels for about....5 seconds before moving on. Since I don't pay a great deal of attention to them, it seems like Chivas USA loses the duel battle weekly, yet they have increased their attempts at a pretty staggering rate.

Furthermore, I figured the possession proportion would be more stark than it is. For Chivas to sit just a little under 4 percent on the wrong side of the possession balance is a lot better than I would have expected. In other words, they may be conceding possession, but on balance it isn't nearly as lopsided as I would have imagined.

Disciplinary

While Chivas USA have taken their physical game up a notch, it would appear that opponents are dialing it down a bit. There's a slight uptick in opponent yellow cards but fouls are down. Are the Goats are not getting the calls? It's hard to say but Sean Franklin's cleat to the chest defies reason.

Considering how far up the Chivas backline plays I would have expected more, not fewer, offside calls. I can't say if its a result of the team's high-octane, aggressive offensive style or the team just hasn't run the offside trap very well.

Fouls Suffered Offside First Yellow Cards Send Offs
2012 65 17 4 0
2013 55 11 5 0
-10 -6 1 0

Analysis:

Rachna - I think the attack stats are pretty on point with what we expected from the team this season. With the 3 man defense, we figured that would be the "worst" position, and we are seeing that with the increase in goals allowed. However, we also have to balance it out with the goals we are scoring, and the offense we are generating. Is it ok to say that, even if we are conceding goals and not posting clean sheets, it's fine because we are winning (or not losing, in the case of a draw)?

It's also interesting that there are more duels. I think this can be part of Chelis' more offensive plan - there's less of a tendency to sit back and let the other team make a mistake, and more urgency in trying to make something for ourselves. I will say, I have only been able to watch the first game against Columbus, but from watching highlights and reading match reviews, it seems that the players are more engaged this season in every position.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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