CARSON, Calif. - Since they debuted against D.C. United on April 2, opposing teams have mostly handled Chivas USA with relative ease.
The club's attacking philosophy forces players to seek out goals and move forward, leaving plenty of space for quick counterattacks and other offensive maneuvers.
D.C. United exposed Chivas USA's backline with a pair of counters in their 2-0 win against the expansion club. From then on, it's been a struggle for Chivas USA's defense.
Still, players and coaches said the club will not abandon their go-forward, attack-at-all-costs mentality. At this point, all that needs to happen is for the group defending to improve and for players to connect with each other better, players said.
"Let's be quite honest. At this point if you evaluate the games we are not all on the same page," defender Ryan Suarez said. "With an attacking style you definitely leave a lot of space for the other team to counter. Whether or not that's an excuse, I can't accept that. When you attack, you have to defend. In today's modern football, you are not allowed to attack without defending."
Chivas USA employs a 4-3-3 formation. However, of the back four, typically only the central defenders stay at home. The fullbacks - Armando Begines on the left and Ezra Hendrickson on the right - have the freedom to roam forward, help spark the attack and contribute. The central defenders - Suarez and either Douglas Sequeira or Alfonso Loera - have the task of keeping the back tidy. At times it has worked. Other times, it has not.
Against FC Dallas, for instance, Carlos Ruiz muscled Sequeira out of the way of a loose ball, shielded the Costa Rican from the ball and fired a 22-yard shot past Martin Zuñiga. But at other times during that match, Chivas USA's defense stood firm. Outside of the first 32 seconds, the Red-and-White kept FC Dallas scoreless for the entire first half. But the flood gates opened in the second half as FC Dallas won 5-2.
Chivas USA's defense has surrendered a league-worst 21 goals and though group defending needs to improve, the club's style of play is also a factor in the high goals allowed figure.
"When you want to play attractive style of soccer, there's always the chance that you're going to get your [butts] handed to you on the other end," Suarez said. "That's just the nature of the game. That means there will be more one-on-ones, which is fine. I like being one-on-one. That just means that there'll be more challenges for me every game. I'll be bored if I don't have them."
Also, the club's background and philosophy have contributed to the defensive woes, Suarez said.
"It's true that the typical Mexican player doesn't like to defend," Suarez said. "If you watch the Mexican league, they love to attack and there's constant space for the midfield to counterattack because it's not really a compact organization and so our organization is going to be a little bit different. It's going to take a little bit to ingrain into the Hispanic's mentality that attacking results from winning the ball back."
During training this week, the club practiced one-on-one marking and attacking. The club split its first-choice attackers and first-choice defenders and had each unit train against the second offensive and defensive units.
Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen said the training sessions have gone as well as could have been expected.
"There's a good level of intensity, good level of energy," Rongen said. "The mood has been good considering the circumstances. It's a team that's pressing real hard and wants to do well and seeking some results."
As the club struggles to improve upon its record, with one win and one draw from nine games, players are busy at work trying to make their offensive philosophy pay dividends.
"We're going at it every day," Suarez said. "Everyone's legs are heavy."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.