Tactical Talk: Chivas USA deploys 4-4-2 to great success in win over Chicago Fire

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The style may have been meat and potatoes, but it led to a full three points

Editor's Note: We want to welcome another writer to The Goat Parade's stable. Michele Tossani is a professor and coach in Italy who will be contributing pieces on the tactics of the game. Here's his first column, on Chivas USA's use of the tried-and-true 4-4-2 on opening day.

There had been a lot of speculation on what formation new coach Wilmer Cabrera as ready to put together for the opener against the Chicago Fire. Surprisingly, Cabrera stayed away from the 4-3-3, the formation he worked with as an assistant coach to Oscar Pareja in Colorado. Instead, the new Chivas USA manager lined up his team in a 4-4-2 formation.

Just couple of years ago, the 4-4-2 was almost dead at the highest level, as it faced problems dealing with 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 shape, all featuring a five-man midfield. The solution was to ask one of the center forwards to drop deeper out of possession, shifting the basic 4-4-2 into a more compact 4-4-1-1.

But Cabrera stayed faithful to a traditional version of 4-4-2. He fielded both Erick Torres and rookie Thomas McNamara as pure forwards, neither being lined up as deep-lying attackers. Leandro Barrera and Mauro Rosales both played high up the pitch when Chivas USA had possession, while they dropped back to build two banks defensively. Argentine Agustin Pelletieri and Oswaldo Minda were the defensive pair in the middle of the pitch. They were both pivotal to Chivas' gameplan as they were passive in the offensive phase but built a defending wall. Minda excelled in that role last season and Pellettieri added help in sharing the defensive responsibility.

With a 6-man defensive platform, Cabrera was able to construct a fluid side where the attacking quartet had the chance to exercise their offensive talents with an organized freedom as all of them are dribblers who could beat their man easily.

Chivas needed more scoring entering into this season, as that has been a problem the past seasons. With this kind of 4-4-2, Cabrera had a balanced formation that retained a 55% of ball possession. Although ball control often is overvalued, with a more direct playing style becoming highly popular at the highest level, taking an advantage in terms of possession can help a side so offensive as Chivas USA, who were fielding two forwards and two offensive wingers.

The game wasn't won because of formation but Chivas starting XI showed organization and a high work rate. Also, Chivas showed to have more options than a season ago as Cabrera had the opportunity to pick valuable players as Luke Moore and Adolfo Bautista off the bench without dropping in quality. Although is the season is too young to bet on a prominence of the 4-4-2 as Chivas USA 2014 main shape, it was a signal. 4-4-2 isn't dead here.

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