Jose Luis Real's in-game tactical shift makes all the difference in Chivas USA win

CARSON, Calif. -- With Chivas USA’s so-called youth integration project in mind, head coach José Luis “Guero” Real had a difficult decision to make on Sunday night.

The first option was to leave inexperienced forward Julio Morales on the pitch and hope a futile attack would come around. Real’s second option was to alter the game plan by removing the ineffective 19-year-old rookie, though it would go against what he’s set out to do since arriving from Guadalajara.

Real chose the latter and it paid off, as the Rojiblancos defeated D.C. United, 1-0, Sunday night at the StubHub Center thanks to another goal from Erick “Cubo” Torres.

The crucial decision came in the 28th minute when it initially appeared Morales had suffered an injury. Midfielder Eric Avila rose from the bench and sprinted on, while Morales walked back slowly through the perimeter. Team trainers, though, remained seated.

As it turned out, it was a tactical decision.

“We gained an advantage against D.C. United,” Real told reporters.

Avila gave Chivas USA five midfielders, leaving Torres as the only attacker atop the formation. The shift seemed to spark a more energetic approach and the 20-year-old found the back of the net for the seventh time in only nine matches.

“It’s a different function,” Torres said of playing alone. “Defensively I have to put in more effort, but the adjustment helped us a lot. We were able to get back into the match.”

Real indicated it was not anything Morales had done wrong, but rather a change he needed to make to alter the rhythm D.C. United had.

“Morales did well in his minutes on the pitch,” Real said. “But we needed another midfielder and Morales is not a midfielder. I’m happy with Morales, but it was a tactical decision only.”

With Avila manning the right side, Edgar Mejia slid into more of a holding position to complement Oswaldo Minda in front of the backline. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy recorded his third shutout of the year, helping Real equal former coach José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá with three victories this season. Real has coached in three fewer matches.

“Sometimes you start a match and things don’t go well right away,” Kennedy said. “You saw that in the first half we struggled a bit. There had to be a change. It worked out well for us.”