Chivas USA look to broaden attack
CARSON, Calif. - Chivas USA's three-pronged attack so far has delivered mixed results.
So far, Thiago Martins has given the club a reliable scoring source. He's scored in each of the last two games, including a late first-half equalizer against FC Dallas, the club's first-ever home goal.
But the other starters have yet to join Martins in the goal-scoring table.
A balanced goal-scoring attack is something Chivas USA head coach Thomas Rongen feels is within reach, whether it comes from the starters or the substitutes, as they head into the Super Clásico against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday at The Home Depot Center.
"We hope Thiago continues at this pace but we hope some others contribute as well," Rongen said. "We need to see some of the other players pick up some of the slack, be it Arturo Torres, be it Matt Taylor. We feel that we have more than just one player capable of scoring goals for us."
Aside from starters Martins, Taylor and Torres, Rongen has looked for offense from substitutes Antonio Martinez and Isaac Romo, each of whom has come off the bench in all three matches.
In the opening match against D.C. United, Martinez replaced Torres in the 58th minute, played at left forward and Taylor moved into Torres' spot on the right. Romo came on with a quarter-hour remaining. The moves proved to be fruitless as United shut out the Red-and-White 2-0.
Against San Jose, Romo came on in the 83rd minute and Martinez came on for Martins four minutes later as San Jose held a 3-2 lead. Although defender Douglas Sequeira bagged the equalizer in stoppage time, it was Martinez who placed the free kick in the heart of the penalty area. Also, Romo's timely run on the set piece helped clear space for Sequeira.
Last week, Martinez replaced Taylor with 20 minutes left in a 1-1 match.
After Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez committed a foul inside the box and fell injured on the field, Rongen put in Romo in search for an equalizer that never came as FC Dallas won 3-1.
Although Martinez and Romo have played every game, there's no set formula for Rongen's substitution pattern.
"It's a combination of a lot of factors," Rongen said. "Are you up? Are you down? Do you go with four up front? We've done that sometimes playing Romo and Thiago up front with two wingers as well. The game really ultimately dictates what changes you want to make as a coach that could alter a game that could help you be successful."
One player who could provide some much-needed punch in the club's attack is midfielder Francisco Mendoza. At 19, Mendoza is the club's youngest player. But he showed flashes of brilliance against D.C. United and scored for Chivas USA reserves the next week.
"He has a great future in this league," Rongen said. "He's very technically sound. I don't think at this time he's a 90-minute player."
Although he likely won't start anytime soon, expect to see Mendoza come on as a substitute more often than not.
"Practice has shown that he's a guy that can give us a spark sometimes. He's just a little bit of a different player than we have out there," Rongen said. "In some cases, he's come off the bench and given us a spark. And in
other cases, like last game (against FC Dallas), it didn't really happen that way. As a coach, that's the gamble you take."
Ultimately, it's the pace of the game that determines who gets the call off the bench.
"You try to do what's best for the team in order to get ultimately a win," Rongen said. "Sometimes, they pan out and you look like a hero. Other times you look like a villain if things don't go your way."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.