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Know Your Enemy: Chivas USA – Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, Chivas USA. Reviewing some game film, looking for strengths and weaknesses.

Jorge Villafaña - Living the Dream - reaches out to some Chivas fans at the Home Depot Center, er StubHub center
Jorge Villafaña - Living the Dream - reaches out to some Chivas fans at the Home Depot Center, er StubHub center

Part One looked at their lineup and form.

The Tactics

Scouting a team like Chivas, much like Toronto, can be a nightmare.

Not only are there just seventeen goals to be considered, but the coach who was in situ for thirteen of those goals is gone.

That said a few patterns do emerge.

The left-side of Chivas’ attack, largely thanks to the excellent wide play of Jorge Villafaña, has proved a strong point. Whether hugging the touch-line and sending in crosses, or moving in-field and forcing his way on goal, Sueño, as he is sometimes known – he won the leagues reality show try-out in 2007 – has been bright in attack.

In no match was his influence as clear as a 2-2 draw with San Jose back on April 27. He hit a fantastic driven cross to set up their first goal, leveling the match at one.

He would set up the second goal with a run down the side of the box, before cutting back to Tristan Bowen who finished low to the bottom corner.

Part of Villafaña’s success is routed in the deceiving bursts of pace. Chivas is not a physically powerful side – say like Kansas City – but they use what they have well and can lure defenses to sleep before pouncing.

Their late equalizer against Los Angeles in the first (not-so) Superclasico back in March is a perfect example.

LA had dominated the match, controlling sixty percent of possession and outshooting Chivas 14-2. Jack McBean had just put the Galaxy in the ascension with a goal in the 83rd minute, but Chivas would not be denied, crafting this wonderfully taken goal in the 89th minute to equalize with their sole shot on target.

Toronto must not be lulled into a false sense of security against the Goats; they can turn it on quickly.

Whether out wide or straight down the middle, if Toronto presses up-field and turns-over possession too frequently, Chivas can be devastating on the counter.

Eric Avila, playing on the right side, has been building a good relationship with second-overall draft-pick Carlos Alvarez – perhaps their success is part of the reason that Villafaña is given space on the left, freed up by the danger they pose on the opposite flank.

The whole team is not shy of a strike from distance if given the chance. Bowen scored this screamer against Vancouver.


As with the goal-scoring, most of their thirty-five goals against came under El Chelis. The primary focus of new boss, Jose Luis Real’s tenure has to be to make them more difficult to beat, solidifying the back to protect the result, and then build from there – sounds familiar, eh?

After allowing twenty-four goals though twelve matches under Chelis – an average of two per match, they have limited their opponent to eleven goal though the last seven matches, cutting that two-per down significantly – a reduction that would have been much better if not for the collapse in Philadelphia (not entirely their fault) and conceding three in Vancouver, as described in Part One.

Real may have shored up the defense, but man-marking in the back, especially at the back-post, has continued to haunt the Flock.

Gyasi Zardes’ game-winning goal in the most recent derby came at the end of the first-half when the first-year forward out-positioned Mario de Luna to nod in a right-sided Landon Donovan free-kick, while Conor Casey absolutely man-handled Jose Correa to get on the end of a Sebastien Le Toux cross – his header would skim off the back of Brian Carroll, robbing the big man of a goal.

A similar facet of defending that has troubled Chivas is tracking the runners at the back-side. Philly’s Casey eventually found his goal there late on Friday, while Atiba Harris stole in behind his markers to score what would be the game-winner in Colorado’s recent 2-0 win.

Carlos Bocanegra and the organizational skills of a strong centre-back presence may go some way to arresting these developments.

Dan Kennedy may be one of the best keepers in the league, but as with all great keepers his strength is his ability to anticipate where the ball is going. But all strengths contain a flaw; the risk with anticipating well is that when the unexpected happens, such as this bizarre goal from Chad Barrett, what should be easy saves can trickle in.

This match is screaming out for Danny Koevermans, finding space in the box, peeling off to the back-post, getting little flicks on the ball – recall his deft touch in Dallas – sadly he’ll probably not be fit.

Their high backline was virtually suicidal under Chelis – one of the corrections addressed under Real, but they are still susceptible on the counter.

Points of Interest

Chivas may enter the match on a fourteen-match winless run – their last league win was on March 30, 2-1 against Vancouver – but they have dominated Toronto, especially in Los Angeles. Chivas have won eight of the eleven all-time meeting between the two, outscoring TFC 20-6 – a domination made more impressive if limited to home matches, where they have won all five meetings, outscoring Toronto 12-1.

Chivas have won the last two meetings in Los Angeles by 3-0 score-lines. In 2011 it was a Juan Pablo Angel brace either side of a Justin Braun strike. In 2010 Jorge Flores, Jesus Padilla, and Rodolfo Espinoza tallied – that match will be remember for – then Goat - Alan Gordon’s elbow on Adrian Cann, breaking his teammate-to-be’s nose.

Ante Jazic is technically still on their roster.

This will be their fourth match in two weeks, including an eastern road trip with stops in Montreal and Philadelphia, Toronto may be able to catch them a little tired – though they have had one more day of rest that TFC.

Former Red, Avila shared some thoughts on Canada in a recent chat, “I never thought I would have been playing in Canada. The fans there are amazing. Obviously, you adjust to a different lifestyle. Canada was a very amazing experience for me. I loved Toronto, the people there, the fans, and all the players there, honestly, they’re really good friends of mine. And there definitely is a good soccer culture up there, which made it very exciting.” Good to hear a former player have some kind words for the organization.