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

The second half of the latest installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, Chivas USA, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting some points of interest

Peraps the most crucial factor in Sunday match - Cubo Torres (bottom left) leaves the pitch after seeing a red card against the Galaxy
Peraps the most crucial factor in Sunday match - Cubo Torres (bottom left) leaves the pitch after seeing a red card against the Galaxy
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Part One reviewing their lineup and form was posted yesterday

The Tactics

Chivas has only scored 23 goals through 28 matches this season, fourteen of which have come from the suspended Cubo Torres. Anytime one player is responsible for 60% of a club’s scoring that club is in trouble.

No other player has more than two goals – Marky Delgado and Marvin Chavez – while just eight players have scored at all this season.

Once Torres’ hot-streak dried up – an eventuality, to be sure – they were doomed. In Part One, their ten-match winless streak was discussed and it was pointed out that they have conceded 24 goals over that spell, scoring just three. Making matters worse, two of those three goals have come from the penalty spot.

In the last 900 minutes of MLS play, this is the only goal Chivas have scored from open play:

Rare though it may be, it does manage to illustrate one of the threats that Toronto must be wary of on Sunday, something they've struggled with frequently, namely attacks from wide positions. A large proportion of Chivas moves involve using space in the wide areas to move the ball up-field before flinging a cross in the box.

Torres, who is particularly adept at finding little gaps and popping up in the perfect spot, is a master at feasting on such service. Felix Borja is yet to do so, but could be the target; he is a bigger body than Torres and given Toronto’s back-line fragility he could be an issue.

Preoccupying the centre-backs with Torres – or another centre-forward while he is out, opens up the wide spaces for one-on-one situations, such as that which led to Delgado’s goal, arriving off the back-shoulder of the Seattle full-back to get on the end of an Eric Avila cross. Chivas may have traded Mauro Rosales, their best crosser, but Avila and Leandro Barrera can each hit a very nice delivery when given time and space. The same goes for the full-backs, Akira Kaji and Tony Lochhead, the latter of whom served up this one for Cubo:

TFC must close down and limit such opportunities – they were twice burnt by Chicago on such simple crosses from the right, leading to Robert Earnshaw and Quincy Amarikwa goals.

When not using width, Chivas does have enough speed to burn an opponent. Chavez, who has not scored since, nabbed a brace on his return to Colorado – shortly after being traded from the Rapids to Los Ameri-Goats back in May. Both goals exemplified how difficult of a player the Honduran can be – his ankle-breaker from last season (number thirteen on this list) will live long in MLS infamy.

His first of that game came from a rushed ball and a headed clearance, Chavez touches a ball past Marvell Wynne and leaves Nick LaBrocca chasing (sensing a TFC theme here), to surge in on goal untouched from his own half, dinking over Clint Irwin:

His second, was not dissimilar – minus the initial distance from goal, pouncing on a poor back-header, to put a second past his former teammate.

Toronto has been guilty of not being precious enough with the ball. Possession is an overrated stat – it is hardly determinative – but managing transitions, or at least, being careful enough to not allow turnovers in places that can hurt, will go a long way towards a victory.

A quick word on a couple of specific threats: Nigel Reo-Coker has been rejuvenated since arriving from Vancouver, where his playing time was limited. He has shown some of those trademark strong runs up the middle, which can cause issues, and Toronto must be wary of his arriving late at the top of the area.

Given the way things go in Toronto, do not be surprised if Avila has a great match. He was always unappreciated here and he would like to depart Chivas on good terms – they have apparently agreed to sell him Santos Laguna.

Barrera was one of the more exciting newcomers to MLS over the first month, blistering up the left and hitting lovely balls into the box. It comes as some surprise that he has just a single goal – and it was as weak, in the grand scheme, as this. He has a lot more to offer and limiting his ability to find freedom, much like Avila, is a good strategy to employ.


Sticking to the most recent goals they have conceded, as they are the most relevant, Chivas has been very disorganized defensively. Equal parts new additions – Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, game-sharpness after an injury layoff – Bobby Burling, and the absence of Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas have been atrocious in their marking.

Seattle’s Andy Rose, hardly the most renowned for his goal-scoring - though adding that to his game of late, was able to find space at the back-post on free-kicks twice in their recent meeting, getting away from Ryan Finley on the first and Burling on the second, each a mirror image of the other:

Toronto has not made the most of set-pieces this season, just one of the reasons they have only scored 36 goals through 27 matches, but with marking like that, and some half-decent service, they could find one on Sunday.

With so many changes at the back and in the midfield, Chivas have been very susceptible to horizontal movement. Watch how much space Columbus’ Justin Meram is given to move into the box before placing a right-footer to the far-side of goal:

Or how Graham Zusi is allowed to walk across the top of the area for Kansas City’s third:

Using width to stretch out the Chivas back-line and then exploiting the gaps created has been a very effective tactic. Toronto has not had enough such dynamic movement from their forwards, Gilberto has the ability to shift in such circumstances, so too does Dwayne De Rosario, but TFC will have to get the ball forward more quickly to catch Chivas recovering, rather than statically attempting to pass through a settled defensive unit.

When a team is under pressure and facing an uncertain future, often they will try and do too much or make mistakes. Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy is a quality keeper, and a hero to the club – much like Logan Pause from last week’s Know Your Enemy, the kind of player TFC will never have given their incessant turnover, but even he is susceptible to trying to do a little too much in light of the current struggles.

Consider Dom Dwyer’s opener for Kansas City:

By rushing out to make a play on a ball into the area, Kennedy all but concedes an open goal to Sporting when he misreads the flight and bounce of the ball.

Mistakes like that are killers, but it is not just Kennedy who has been caught out. Hurtado’s back-pass late in that match was horrible and a sure sign that a team is forgetting to do the simple things well that help win games.

A player like Jermain Defoe would feast on such chances… sigh…

Toronto must stay alert at all times, follow shots and crosses into the box, and remain engaged and pressuring throughout the match. Chances will come, mistakes will happen, and one has to be in the right place to take advantage of them.

TFC has been woefully guilty of not making enough of their own luck by taking shots, getting balls into dangerous positions, and forcing errors out of defenders. Everyone wants to score the beautiful goals, but the ugly ones count equally.

Points of Interest

The two clubs have met twelve times in MLS play, with Chivas winning nine, Toronto two, and a single draw.

Six of those games have been played in Toronto, where both of TFC’s wins have come, as well as three wins for Chivas, and the draw.

Chivas have won the last three meetings between the clubs and have not lost since 2010 – a span of five matches, when TFC won 2-1 at home on first half goals from Nana Attakora and Chad Barrett, with Giancarlo Maldonado replying for Chivas.

Los Ameri-Goats – the name will stick one of these days, though time is running out – won last season’s meeting 1-0 at home, with Torres scoring the lone goal in the 79th minute, despite having played down a man for the majority after Avila was sent off in the 25th minute.

They also won the most recent meeting in Toronto, 0-1 in 2012, with Osvaldo Minda nabbing the only goal with a header from a corner kick in the 31st minute.