Chivas USA finding a formation that fits

Jesus Ochoa has performed well for Chivas USA as a defensive midfielder.

Photo Credit: 
Juan Miranda/MLS/WireImage.com

As the preseason continues on, Club Deportivo Chivas USA's defense has fallen victim to opposing offenses.

In friendlies against the U.S. national team and the San Jose Earthquakes, Chivas USA's backline was torched for 10 goals. For their friendly against Atlante this week, Chivas USA head coach Thomas Rongen switched from a 3-4-3 formation, which the club had utilized throughout the preseason, to a more defensive-oriented 4-3-3.

The results were mixed. Chivas USA seemed to stop some of the bleeding but still allowed a pair of goals to Atlante, one of the Mexican Primera Division's top attacking clubs.

Still, the effort was not futile.

"We felt we made progress," Rongen said. "You lose, obviously which is something you don't want to get accustomed to, but also as a coach you look at some of the positives."

Chivas USA played toe-to-toe with Atlante for much of the game. Douglas Sequeira played his first match with the expansion club and paired with rookie Aaron Lopez in the center of the defense. Major League Soccer veterans Orlando Perez and Ezra Hendrickson manned the left and right side of the defense, respectively. Fellow MLS vets Jesus Ochoa and Francisco Gomez, who wore the captain's armband, each played a solid defensive midfield.

The defensive-oriented formation thwarted Atlante for most of the game. Sebastian "Chamagol" Gonzalez, tied for fifth in the Mexican goal-scoring table, buried a goal three minutes from time to give Atlante their second goal.

The move to a 4-3-3 was twofold: Rongen wanted to do a better job of containing opposing offenses and contain an opponent known for its attacking prowess.

"We've conceded a lot of goals the previous two games. We wanted to solidify the back a little bit," Rongen said. "We also knew that Atlante attacks with a great deal of numbers and is a very good team. It was a combination as a
preparation for this game and also to look at something we might want to go with in the future."

Without a clear focal point for the attack, Rongen said it makes sense to focus on defense when the team is struggling.

"Sometimes if you don't have the quality," Rongen said, "you might have to say 'Listen, let's just see if we can be sound defensively.'"

The offense, which produced numerous quality scoring chances early in the preseason, has come to a screeching halt. Chivas USA created a few opportunities against Atlante but nothing spectacular. Hector Cuadros was on the ball a great deal, but he struggled to generate many scoring chances.

"We haven't been very productive up front either in terms of creating or scoring. That's a little bit of concern," Rongen said. "We've got a few weeks left and we're going to work on some of the areas we need to work on."

Chivas USA has a pair of games in the upcoming week. Whether or not the club comes out with a four-man backline or goes with four midfielders remains to be seen.

"We might go back to a 3-4-3," Rongen said. "That's still our ideal philosophy and the way we want to play as a team. It's something that we'll continue to evaluate and look at."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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