CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of the LA Galaxy on Sunday eliminated the Goats from playoff contention and condemned the club to its first year without postseason action since 2005. The Red-and-White still have four games left to play in the 2010 MLS regular season, and it’s time for head coach Martín Vásquez to start preparing for next year.
With that in mind, MLSsoccer.com recommends four experiments for Vásquez to try over the course of the next month, perhaps beginning with this weekend's match against Toronto FC.
Start Borja and Cuesta in Central Defense
The Red-and-White need an injection of fresh blood into their defense before the 2011 season begins. They have conceded 36 goals so far this year – good for second-worst in the Western Conference – and have particularly struggled against set pieces. The usual starters in the back (Trujillo, Jazic, Delgado, and Umaña) boast a multitude of experience, but lack physicality and youthfulness. Enter Borja and Cuesta. At 22 and 21 respectively, the young pair will likely form a big part of the Goats’ defensive future in coming seasons. So why not give them a few games now?
Let Lahoud Roam
Since he arrived at Chivas in 2009, Michael Lahoud has been primarily used as a defensive midfielder, where his strength and speed have made him a valuable asset. One can’t help but feel that he is capable of more as an offensive player, though. Lahoud is dangerous on the ball – more so than he probably knows or feels confident about. But consider his college numbers: He finished a four-year career at Wake Forest with 20 assists and 14 goals, and that’s including a senior year that saw him used defensively. Allowing Lahoud a bit of freedom up front might be just what he needs to show off some of his skill in the attack.
Play Three at the Back
It’s risky, especially for a team that has conceded as many goals as Chivas USA has. There are very few clubs that rely on a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 as their go-to formation, but consider this: The Goats have an abysmal 0-14-3 record when they concede the first goal. Conversely, the Red-and-White are 7-1-1 in games when they strike first. So why not put an extra man in the midfield and attack right from the opening whistle? If Chivas can get a goal early, they can drop a player like Lahoud or Zemanski back into the defense and try to hold their lead. It may sound crazy, but the Goats have only scored 26 goals this season – the second-lowest mark in all of MLS. That should be a clarion call for some offensive experimentation.
Put Bornstein up Top
This one doesn’t really have any practical application, it’d just be entertaining to see Bornstein in the position he played all the way through college. It was Bob Bradley who turned the current Goats’ captain into the left-back that he is today. And with Bornstein departing for Mexican First Division side Tigres at the end of the season, why not have some fun and pair him with Justin Braun at the head of the Red-and-White offense? You could call them “The Killer B’s.” Bornstein has proven aerial ability and a nose for goal. Who knows? Maybe he'd net a hat trick. Maybe not.