Chivas USA Week 2 Scouting Report: Vancouver Whitecaps

USA TODAY Sports

What adjustments do they need to make to start a winning streak?

In Week 1, Chivas USA faced a muted Chicago Fire attack that was missing its MVP striker, and barely scraped by with a 3-2 win.

This time around they'll face a more formidable opponent in the Vancouver Whitecaps, a team that has added an incredible mix of South American attacking talent with the likes of Sebastian Fernandez, Pedro Morales, and Matias Laba. They were so impressive in their Week 1 drubbing of New York that they've captured the attention of the league and have stamped themselves as an exciting team to look out for in 2014.

I wanted to put my MLS Live subscription to good use so I was able to watch VAN/NYRB and was genuinely surprised by how good the 'Caps look. It's an attractive attacking brand of football 4-2-3-1 soccer and the 4-1 scoreline is plenty proof that this is a team with a surprising amount of chemistry despite the new roster.

Here's a brief scouting report on Vancouver.

Strengths:

  • They like to counter: Yes, NYRB outperformed Vancouver in total possession (57% to 42%), but it appeared the Whitecaps were completely ok with that considering how well they were able to counter -- 2 of their 4 goals came off of counters. Their midfield does an excellent job of containing the attack, maintaining a relatively high formation, and waiting for a mistake to counter. Finding speedster Darren Mattocks in space is a great asset to have.
  • The Long Shot: Fernandez, Russell Teibert, Kenny Miller, and Nicolas Mezquida aren't shy about shooting from distance. Most of these long shots, many of which happen to be on target, come off of quick counters when the opposing defense is unorganized, allowing for massive amounts of space.
  • Technical Ability: Great 1-2 pass combos in the final third that creates defensive chaos and creates shot opportunities. The ability to combine these combo passes with the accurate long shot is a deadly mix, as it keeps opposing defenses guessing.

Weaknesses:

  • Their midfield has taken the Week 1 spotlight, but their defensive back line isn't exactly impenetrable. I'd say they're average, at best. There were a number of occasions where NYRB picked it apart, yet couldn't manage to score.
  • There are times where Laba and Nigel Reo-Coker get so caught up in the attack that they are late to help on defense.

Chivas USA's Keys to the Game:

  1. Can't give up possession in the midfield. Be patient and play smart.
  2. Stay away from the high line. Chivas cannot afford to have slow defenders get in a footrace with the Whitecaps' corps of attackers.
  3. Communicate and have trust in defensive rotations to combat Vancouver's slick combo passes.

With a new opponent comes a new game plan and it will be interesting to see if Wilmer Cabrera makes any changes for Week 2. Based on Vancouver's play against New York, here are 4 alterations that may be addressed (hint: they all deal with speed, or lack thereof):

Andrew Jean-Baptiste over Bobby Burling?

Reasoning: Chivas USA probably has the slowest backline in the league and might have problems with the Whitecaps' quick attack. Add the fact that Vancouver's midfielders have lots of technical skill with the ball and a change to a more athletic CB with speed, like Jean-Baptiste, could prove to be beneficial.

Chances of happening: Possible in theory, I'm giving this one a 50% chance. Burling was the face of last Sunday's match for his dramatic game winner and while there's a 2 inch drop off in height (to potentially fend off Kenny Miller's headers), AJB is faster, stronger, and has quicker lateral movements -- something that would be necessary to keep Fernandez and crew at bay. Could you imagine Burling and Carlos Bocanegra chasing down Mattocks, who some consider to be the fastest player in MLS? Not a good sight. On the other hand, AJB hasn't seen much playing time with the starting back line so chemistry and communication could be an issue.

Break Up "MindaTieri"?

Reasoning: Another case of being too slow. Defensive midfielders Oswaldo Minda and Agustin Pelletieri did a decent job cleaning up the middle in last Sunday's win over Chicago, but Chicago's attack is nowhere near as potent as what Vancouver is capable of. Chivas USA needs someone who can track back faster to slow down the counters.

Chances of happening: Not Likely. New York's biggest mistake against Vancouver was giving up the ball too easily in the middle of the field. Having high IQ players that can make a safe pass out of trouble, avoid lapses in concentration, and adjust in transition effectively is more important than having someone that can run back in time. There's no denying Minda and Pelletieri, as experienced and capable as they are, are the best this roster has to offer in that respect. The fact that Vancouver prefers to attack up the middle is even more reason to keep the center midfield unchanged.

Switch to a 4-5-1?

Reasoning: With all the talent Vancouver has in the midfield, they could very well take over a game. Adding additional defensive help in the midfield with a player like Dani Fragoso, and switching to a 4-5-1 is an attempt at taking that advantage away. We saw Vancouver do their damage in the center of the field and attack the goal from the middle, and adding that extra support could force them out wide.

Chance of happening: Very Unlikely. Going 4-5-1 at home is the equivalent of waving of the white flag and gives flashbacks of the ineptitude and lack of trust Robin Fraser and Martin Vasquez had for their squads. Also, Fragoso had limited playing time as a late sub in Sunday's 3-2 win, but also played the full 90 in CUSA's mid-week scrimmage against UCLA. It's highly unlikely he starts.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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