Chivas USA has had an inconsistent season so far, but considering projections at the beginning of the season that pegged them to be at or near the bottom of the standings, they appear to have turned a corner. First year head coach Robin Fraser has made an impact already on the squad, and they are currently in the playoff mix. But in recent weeks, the team has slipped a bit, losing two in a row and facing defensive woes for the past several matches. What accounts for the slip? Obviously, there is probably not a single factor, but the fact that nearly all of the squad is healthy and available for the first time all season has paradoxically disrupted their form.When Chivas started to right the ship in April, they had a depleted squad, and counted on a very small core of players to get through it. But in missing so many players (Paulo Nagamura, Blair Gavin, Jimmy Conrad, Michael Lahoud, Tristan Bowen, Marcos Mondaini, Alejandro Moreno, Simon Elliott, Andrew Boyens all missed multiple games) the core that Fraser trusted really spent a lot of time playing together and built up chemistry.
One area where this problem presents itself is in midfield, where Fraser now has a dilemma on his hands with Elliott and Nagamura. Both players have the experience and talent to be on-field generals for the Goats. But having both on at the same time may result in a mess. The way that Fraser can play both is if Elliott is tasked with defensive duties in midfield, as he is better in that spot and Nagamura plays as the offensive player in the center. It will be interesting, however, to see if both players will want to control possession and will therefore be redundant, or if they can co-exist with their divided duties.
As players have returned from injury, international duty, or suspension, the team has more available options than at any time all season. At the moment, the only missing players are Conrad (Concussion) and Moreno (Venezuela National Team). Over the course of a long season, squad rotation is vital, and if Fraser continues to play the same 14 players every week, fatigue and injury will result. But since he began rotating his squad in earnest against Vancouver on June 1, Chivas have been an inconsistent team, and their defensive troubles have really prevented them from getting vital points. It has been obvious that inserting new and returning players has upset team chemistry on the field, a problem that will probably only disappear with more games. In the end, it may be more of a necessary problem that Fraser faces, and one that will hopefully build sustained squad depth moving forward this season.