Tactical Talk: Pouncing on Colorado Rapids errors leads to a Chivas USA victory

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A rousing success, though the kinks haven't been entirely worked out.

Job done. Chivas USA got a pivotal three points out from the Dick's Sporting Goods Park courtesy of a 3-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday. Martin Chavez, the winger the Goats acquired from the Rapids this week, was the unexpected hero as he netted two goals against his former team, ending Chivas USA's eight-game winless streak.

From a tactical viewpoint, it wasn't a game that added something new. Coach Wilmer Cabrera named a defensive-minded side to contrast Pablo Mastroeni's narrowed 4-4-2. Veteran goalkeeper Dan Kennedy went back into the side after a suspension, while newly acquired Ryan Finley and Chavez sat on the bench, alongside Mauro Rosales. Cabrera fielded a compact 4-5-1 shape, featuring a midfield trio of Martin Rivero, Augustin Pelleteri, and Oswaldo Minda, while Erick Torres acted as lone striker once again.

Chivas USA's overall approach was interesting. Cabrera opted to play extremely tight, with a high defensive line tactically paired to a whole team who were defending at the midfield line. Honestly, Chivas USA's shape without the ball deserved criticism, as the Goats weren't pressing in midfield. In fact, without the ball CUSA didn't press adequately, favoring intercepting over pressing. It requires a different way of playing defensively, putting more emphasis on positioning than on aggressively attacking the ball carrier. However, they didn't park the bus but still played a defensive-minded game. Therefore, it seems clear the Goats aren't accustomed to defending under Cabrera, as shown by the fact the team allowed a lot of goals despite playing this way during the first part of this season, and their defensive performance in the first half has been unconvincing again.

Offensively, CUSA's attacking approach was very simple as they played direct football, relying on long balls towards Torres. Theoretically, there were attempts of counterattacking, but midfielders weren't able to support the breaks helping Torres in open play. The result was Chivas USA didn't create much danger to Colorado. Waiting for Rapids' errors was CUSA's best way of creating scoring chances. On the opposite side, scoring opportunities were spread all around, while Colorado's play flourished around deep-lying midfielder José Mari. The opening goal surprisingly came for the away team in the 56th minute, when a wide open Torres headed a nice cross provided by Martin Rivero beating Colorado's defence with a clear numerical edge inside the 18-yard box. This goal was crucial in the game as the Goats seemed more solid defensively and a bit more dangerous on the break after going ahead.

By the way, Colorado maintained control of the game, playing aggressively in an effort to equalize. Unfortunately for Mastroeni, his defense committed two crucial mistakes that decided the game. In the end, despite a generally poor display, the Rojiblancos capitalized on Colorado's mistakes. Congratulations to Cabrera for the win but there is still a long way to go before one can argue Chivas' problems are fixed.

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