Opta Spotlight: Numbers aren't kind to Chivas USA
Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 7-18-9 (30 points); 24 GF / 58 GA (-34 GD)
2012 Chivas USA Average Position
Where is the width? It's no wonder Chivas USA had such epic struggles putting the ball in the back of the net.
Now, this chart is slightly skewed – three central defenders are represented based on time on the field – but it's clear the club must find some wide midfielders to feed Juan Agudelo and whoever else lines up up top. Ryan Smith was injured for much of the season and in and out of the lineup (ring a bell, Sporting KC fans?) and yet, along with Miller Bolaños, still led the team in assists with four.
Chivas USA need more production on the flanks, as well as consistency in their starting XI, to improve on a dreadful 2012.
2012 Chivas USA Passing Matrix (Download HERE)
It's no wonder Chivas' attack was so anemic; James Riley, Ante Jazic and Oswaldo Minda were one, two and three in successful passes. Pinging the ball around in the back isn't a bad thing, but it's not going to lead to too many scoring opportunities.
That Riley led the club in that category by more than 400 passes is concerning. He was the team's main link to Minda and Nick LaBrocca in the middle of the park, but neither of those players had much luck feeding the danger men ahead of them.
To wit, neither Agudelo (372) and Juan Pablo Ángel (268) completed more than 375 passes. Only Bolaños seemed to be genuinely active with the ball at his feet, completing 677 passes on the season and enjoying a solid partnership with LaBrocca.
1) Statistically speaking, Chivas USA were the worst attacking team in MLS
Dead last in goals scored (24) by a margin of 10. Last in big chances created (30) and big-chance goals (10). Third-to-last in total attempts (291) and shooting accuracy (40.42 percent).
As you can tell, the list of red flags is never ending. Chivas were practically hopeless going forward. So bad, in fact, that Chris Wondolowski outscored them by three goals. No player scored more than four goals (Ángel and Bolaños), and that's something that has to change in 2012.
Agudelo clearly has the talent to score in the double digits, but does he even want to stick around? Casey Townsend is promising, but raw and inexperienced. They need an injection of talent, and they need it quick.
2) Statistically speaking, Chivas USA were the worst defensive team in MLS
Recognize a theme? Only hapless Toronto FC allowed more goals (62) than Chivas USA. One look at the defensive statistics at hand tells you why.
Los Rojiblancos were third-to-last in total clearances, blocks and interceptions (only Toronto FC and Houston accumulated fewer). They were second-to-last in tackles attempted.
I'm placing Toronto FC ahead of them for one simple reason: Dan Kennedy. Just think what would have happened if Kennedy wasn't between the pipes. It could have easily been a record-breaking season, and for all the wrong reasons.
3) Some direct play from time to time could benefit Chivas USA
For all the talk about tiki taka and beautiful soccer, most teams find it difficult to marry a preference for short passing with consistent chance creation. Variety, it seems, benefits most teams.
Chivas USA fell in that category during 2012, finishing fifth in MLS in completed passes but creating very few scoring opportunities. They rarely attempted long passes (only 14.2 percent of attempted passes were of the long variety), and as the passing matrix shows, most of the short passes completed were between the back line and deep-lying central midfielders.
Would they have been more productive by hitting the ball long for Agudelo and Ángel to run onto or nod down to onrushing midfielders? Hard to say, but just about anything was worth trying after a pathetic season in front of net.
Random nugget: After scoring 31 goals from open play in 2011, Chivas USA scored just 16 in 2012.