Erick Torres getting headlines for Chivas USA, but improved defense another reason for success

CARSON, Calif. – Much of the praise for Chivas USA’s success recently has gone to forward Erick “Cubo” Torres, the reigning MLS Player of the Week who has scored in each of the last four league games to guide his team to a rare unbeaten streak.

Yet the Rojiblancos have been much improved in other areas, particularly on defense as they have stacked up three consecutive shutouts – their only clean sheets this year. Torres also kicked off the season with a four-game scoring streak, but Chivas USA grabbed three points only one time in that stretch.

This time around, his knack for finding the back of the net has not gone to waste.

“We’re on a little bit of a rhythm right now,” captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “The team is confident. That’s the biggest thing: we’re confident, we’re keeping pretty tight defensively and Cubo is getting goals. It’s enjoyable at the moment. Everyone will tell you we’re enjoying playing and enjoying being here. It hasn’t been like that for a long time.”

A lineup change just prior to the World Cup break could be a reason why the Goats have not allowed a goal in 325 consecutive minutes of league play as they roll into Saturday night’s road game against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10 pm ET, MLS Live in US, TSN2 in Canada).

“We’ve had some continuity playing the similar backline,” Bocanegra said.

The return of Tony Lochhead to the starting lineup on June 8 pushed Donald Toia from left back to right back, and Eric Avila moved into more of an attacking role in the midfield. Since then, Lochhead and Toia have bookended veterans Bocanegra and Bobby Burling in front of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Though only two teams in the Western Conference have allowed more goals than Chivas USA this season, head coach Wilmer Cabrera is optimistic about the next couple of months.

“We needed to continue improving little details and little mistakes we were making,” Cabrera said. “We’re getting used to the work and getting used to each other. It took 14 or 15 games to click on, but it’s good. Right now we look good, solid and confident – not only in the back, but in the middle.”

Kennedy used the words “boring” and “slow” last week to describe the last-minute victory in which Torres was the stoppage-time hero against the Montreal Impact, but Chivas USA wouldn’t mind putting people to sleep if it meant more zeroes on the board.

“We had that shutout eluding us. We got one, and now we’ve got three,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully if we’re going to compete, it’s going to be because we’re stingy defensively. We’ve got to keep that going.”