CARSON, Calif. – You don't have Chivas USA to kick around anymore.
That's the message out of Goats camp these days. For many teams, when a player is sent off in the first 15 minutes of a game, the tactic is to bunker down and try to prevent the opposition from scoring.
But Chivas didn’t take that approach in their 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, instead balancing a strong defensive game with frequent forays forward.
That strategy nearly led to a victory, as Erick Torres’ deflected goal just before halftime put the hosts ahead until the 81st minute, when Kekuta Manneh came off the bench and scored the equalizer for the Whitecaps.
True to their strategy, head coach Wilmer Cabrera and the Chivas players were balanced in their assessments of the outcome following the match.
After beginning the postgame press conference by announcing he would not discuss the referee regarding the red card on Agustín Pelletieri in the 13th minute, which he called a “clean tackle on the ball,” Cabrera explained that the strategy following the ejection was to continue attacking Vancouver despite the man disadvantage.
“When we recovered the ball, we were able to change the formation, send two, three, even four guys forward,” Cabrera said.
Midfielder Mauro Rosales, whose passing helped put the Goats into dangerous positions time and again in the attacking third, explained that the approach was to make Vancouver work as much as possible to recover the ball.
“We did an excellent job holding the ball, passing the ball around, just to make them run for the ball, and I’m happy about that,” he said.
With the team feeling heartened by the performances in the first two weeks, it appears they are starting to believe they can be in the playoff hunt in 2014.
Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy discussed the importance of getting results at home, like they did in the first two games of the season: “If we’re going to get in the playoffs, it’s important that we get results here [at home].”
When asked if the team was seriously targeting a playoff berth this season, Kennedy – the longest-tenured player on the team and the only player to have been on the squad during the last four playoff-less seasons – smiled as he expressed his optimism for this year.
“We want to be competing," he said of the possibility of making the postseason. "It’s early days right now. If we can continue on this path where we get results like today, we should have that opportunity."
It appears Cabrera’s mental approach for his team, which he characterized as “thinking big,” could be paying off for the Goats after just a couple of games in charge.