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Time for Tactics: A Proposal about Chivas USA's Formation

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Coming off a 2-2 draw for Chivas USA against the Colorado Rapids Saturday, new additions Juan Pablo Angel and Laurent Courtois came up big for the Goats, each nabbing his first goal with the team. Let's all hope they can both continue to contribute in the remainder of the season, in addition to the mainstays like Nick LaBrocca. Obviously if Chivas can continue to get points they may not need to deviate from the 4-4-2 lineup they've been using most of the season, but I have been thinking about other formations that may prove more complementary to the team's parts. In particular, I think Chivas might want to think about deviating from the league standard to address the offensive and defensive balance for the team. So allow me to humbly suggest the following alignment: 4-1-2-2-1. Admittedly, it is probably too complicated to really prove effective, but let me explain the scheme.

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4: Standard backline This is the component that remains intact, with two full backs and two center backs. Unlike a team like Toronto FC that is trying a truly radical formation (for MLS) of 4-3-3 and even 3-4-3 at times, I think Chivas need to maintain a four-man backline to have any hope of maintaining the mostly solid defensive performance this season. So this would stay intact.

1: Defensive Midfielder: I get that a defensive midfielder that is a separate level in a formation is a conservative approach, but I think Michael Lahoud has played well in the games where he's been deployed in this position. He is a decent, if not spectacular, defender but he can also move up the field occasionally for offense. Above all, I think Chivas need another player devoted to defense who can move into the midfield every so often.

2: Central Mids: Ok, here's where maybe it breaks down a bit, but hear me out. You could have Simon Elliott in the middle as the distributor, which he's been doing all season and marshaling the team on the field. But with Lahoud behind him as the DM, Elliott can be relieved in the defensive duties for which he is often shaky. He deserves credit for getting into the play and trying to clear balls from the 18-yard box, but his clearances deflect funny at times and put the team in more danger. Yet his ability in controlling the ball moving forward is very useful, and he needs to stay on the field. Aside Elliott would be one of the wingers (Jorge Flores, Blair Gavin, and Laurent Courtois). This would produce an unbalanced structure, but Lahoud could move onto the other side when he moves up the field to balance the formation out. Also, one of the roving attackers in front of this level could go to the other side to balance it out if the DM can't get to the wing fast enough.

2: Roving attackers: This is what I think needs to be the most important level. I would put Nick LaBrocca and Juan Pablo Angel here. They would have the freedom to move around the field depending on where they could find space and move back to get the ball when necessary. I think Angel may not be able to keep up leading the line for 90 minutes game in and game out, but if he bides his time and periodically makes runs, like he did against Colorado, he can still break through defenses with great success. Plus, he already predominantly played 'in the hole' against the Rapids, as you'll notice from his heat map on the chalkboard of the game. As for LaBrocca, he's already playing this role, so he doesn't need to change much in his game except react to Angel and try not to overlap with him too much in this part of the field.

1: Striker up top: Chivas' other forwards are not consistent enough to lead the line alone, but I think the versatility of having LaBrocca and Angel just behind the lone striker means one or both of them can move up and play alongside the man up top. Both Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno are capable of beating defenses and scoring goals, and are physical enough to deal with the defensive pressure. Braun did score a hat trick on a 4-1-4-1 formation in the last meeting against Houston, which means a lone striker is not hopeless for the Goats.

Ok, so maybe this formation is crazy, but what do you think of dropping JPA back a little and having him play in the hole? Are there other formations that seem more realistic and/or effective? Leave a comment below!