CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA didn’t reach MLS Cup Playoffs in 2011, but with head coach Robin Fraser at the helm, the Rojiblancos head into next season with stability at the head coaching position for the first time in several years.
Embarking on his “building” project with the club, Fraser navigated his team to an 8-14-12 record. MLSsoccer.com recently spoke with Fraser following his first full season as head coach Chivas USA to discuss, his first year in charge of the and his plans for the future of his club.
MLSsoccer.com: What was the main lesson you learned during your first year in charge?
Fraser: I think that you learn that it takes away to figure out exactly what you have and what you don't have. I think that I came in with a certain idea about what needed to be done based on what I had done in the past, and it just continued to be made clear to me throughout the year that, because you have different personalities and different players, that no two scenarios are the same. That certainly will make us better because we have concrete ideas about what we need to do.
MLSsoccer.com: How important was it to have assistant Greg Vanney alongside you this season?
Fraser: Extremely. Greg is a brilliant soccer mind and we share many philosophies, but how we get to the end product isn't always the same, so we have a very healthy banter about players and methods. Between us, we cover a lot of the bases necessary and it's been invaluable.
MLSsoccer.com: Turnovers, early goals and defensive lapses haunted the team this past season. How do you address that during the offseason?
Fraser: It definitely became frustrating. The most important part of life is progress – you should be progressing every day. As I said in the final press conference of the season, if you're making the same mistakes in the 28th and 29th game of the season, it's extremely frustrating.
As a group, we have to learn and we have to have a group of players who can concentrate for 90 minutes and certainly be able to close out games. If you eliminate small mistakes, especially in your end of the field, who knows, you get another 10, 12 or more points. I think that moving forward as a group, it has to be a focus of ours to develop an ability to concentrate over long stretches.
MLSsoccer.com: You took the Chivas USA job in January. How important is it for the organization to have stability for the entire offseason?
Fraser: I think that it's critical. I got hired on Jan. 3 and the window closed on Jan. 31, and no teams are playing between Jan. 3 and Jan. 31. Again, we didn't know what we had and what we didn't have. Now we have a full season and full offseason and we feel confident in some of the changes that we need to make. We're pursing players, who we think will be able to help us get where we want to go.
MLSsoccer.com: Dan Kennedy shined for the team this season. How vital was his leadership?
Fraser: He showed a lot of grit early and an ability to direct and lead, which started to give us confidence. Then, when he started to make important saves to keep ourselves in games, the team really got confidence in him. I think that he had a really good year, and if you look at the number of goals that we gave up, not that many were due directly to goalkeeping, so I feel he did a really good job.
MLSsoccer.com: The club has reformatted its youth system and the youth coaches are now members of your staff. How have you seen their program develop?
Fraser: I think that the ideas and concepts that are being enforced here on a daily basis are being enforced in the youth program on a daily basis. I think that it's going to make players more ready for the transition to this team and I think that the involvement of the youth coaches has been fantastic.
If you watch the youth teams play, they're doing a lot of things in pockets around the field similarly to the first ,and I think that integration is going to make the whole thing go uphill and improve.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.