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Forward progress? Not until defensive lapses are eliminated, says Chivas USA boss Wilmer Cabrera

CARSON, Calif. – Frosty conditions won’t be the only thing Chivas USA have to contend with Sunday when they take on the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (3 pm ET, UniMas).

The Rojiblancos have been fighting some heavy defensive woes, too.

Despite scoring first in five of their nine matches this season, Chivas USA have been unable to clamp down and, as a result, walked away with only one victory. Statistically speaking, 10 of the 18 goals they have allowed this year have come after the 60th minute.

The ominous news ahead of a matchup with the squad head coach Wilmer Cabrera helped build as a Colorado assistant? The Rapids have scored 8 of their 10 goals in the final 30 minutes, meaning Chivas USA will have more than just snow to worry about.

“We haven’t been consistent with our defense,” Cabrera told MLSsoccer.com ahead of meeting his former team for the first time since taking the Chivas USA job in the offseason. “We have a plan, a strategy and tactics, but we make one mistake – one blooper where we pass the ball to the opponent, we get a red card, we open spaces or we have to play with 10 men – and that is not normal. That does not put the team in a good situation. We have to fix that.”

Injuries and position adjustments have contributed to the chaos. The Rojiblancos have played three different left backs, with Donald Toia starting the last two matches following injuries to Tony Lochhead (hamstring strain) and Andrew Jean-Baptiste (hernia), and have had to juggle their midfield as well. They will be without midfielder Mauro Rosales (left adductor strain) for the second consecutive week.

“We just have to be better defensively as a team and not just focus on the back four or the goalkeeper; it really is a team thing,” said Dan Kennedy, who is listed as questionable with right knee swelling. “We’re working on that and I’d expect we’ll see a much better performance on Sunday.”

Chivas USA (1-5-3) have grabbed two points from four road matches this year, yet drew positives from valiant performances at FC Dallas (3-1 loss), New York (1-1), Portland (1-1) and San Jose (1-0 loss).

“We know we’re close, so we have to keep believing in the coaching staff,” midfielder Carlos Alvarez told MLSsoccer.com. “For us, that’s the main thing – keep believing in their philosophy. People, the outsiders, don’t know what’s going on, but we do. We just need to keep thinking as a team and sticking together. We’ve been close in games, so now we need to finish our chances.”

Cabrera, who spent two seasons with the Rapids under fellow Colombia national Oscar Pareja, said the blueprint is simple.

“In order to change your mentality and motivation, you have to be able to close your own goal, and we haven’t done it,” he said. “We have to do that first and then move forward.”