CARSON, Calif. – The consensus in the Chivas USA locker room Saturday night was that the side’s 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew was a fair, though misleading, result.
There was disappointment, sure. No one wanted to kick off the season on a sour note. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy shook his head, yet acknowledged it was only the first match. Forward Tristan Bowen shrugged his shoulders, but was encouraged by the potential the club showed.
New head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, meanwhile, vowed to stay the course. He was questioned for his use of a three-man backline, but the vibrant manager stood firmly behind the decision.
“Defense isn’t the problem,” Sánchez Solá told reporters in his postgame press conference. “[Columbus] scored on us twice when we had 10 players in the area. The three-man backline isn’t the issue.”
In other words: There’s no need to pull out the drawing boards just yet.
“Every time we played straight up with our three-man backline, they didn’t succeed. That’s evident,” Sánchez Solá said. “That’s not the problem. The problem is having the necessary weapons to attack and put the ball in net.”
Earlier in the week at the club’s media event, "Chelís" used his fingers to physically diagram how a three-man backline can defend various offensive attacks.
“If the offense is one [player] and I have three on defense,” Sánchez Solá said as three raised fingers converged on the hand with only one, “grrr, eat, eat, eat.”
Yet about midway through the first half Saturday, left midfielder Laurent Courtois crept more and more into the Rojiblancos’ defensive zone as Columbus pressed forward.
Mario de Luna, Joaquín Velázquez and Wálter Vílchez formed the three-man backline to start the match, while Bobby Burling came on in the 56th minute for Courtois as Chelís made defensive adjustments. De Luna, on loan from CD Guadalajara, and Velázquez and Vílchez, both of whom played for Sánchez Solá at Mexican side Puebla, made their MLS debuts together.
Chelís said he intends to stick with his 3-5-2 look, even if it doesn’t produce immediate results. It’s an idea Kennedy supports.
“My expectation is that we continue to go in that direction, continue to rally around his personality and let him be the leader,” the All-Star goalkeeper said. “We just need to be on board.”