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When Chivas USA Attempt Barcelona Tactics and Fail

Chivas USA have been employing many of the same tactics as FC Barcelona this season, and have not seen the same success as the famous Blaugranas. Here's a brief explanation of why.

Jasper Juinen - Getty Images

Disclaimer: Let me preface this by saying that the premise of this article is not, by any means, to say that Chivas USA is FC Barcelona, nor is it a comprehensive comparison between the two. The idea for this was spurned from a couple of similarities I’ve seen in tactical decisions with both. I’m not explicitly saying that Chivas USA are copying the tactics here, but it’s quite evident that many of the tactics are the same and are failing horribly for the Goats. Also, the tactics mentioned below are probably not exclusive to these two teams, but for the purpose of this piece, they’re the only two mentioned.

As a fan of both teams, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the two after seeing some of Robin Fraser’s coaching decisions this season, especially when it comes to defense. First, let’s look at the curious case of Shalrie Joseph as a center back. It’s not very often you see a midfielder slotted in as a CB. For the most part, top teams use center backs as, well, center backs. The biggest case of this NOT happening, however, is that of Barcelona. When Pep Guardiola first converted Javier Mascherano into a defender, many people questioned his sanity, myself included. However, he has proven to be one of the most consistent players on the Barcelona squad. With Carles Puyol injured for a significant period every season, Mascherano was called upon to take his place, since other CB options were too young and inexperienced. With a slightly shaky start, Mascherano has basically become a go-to defender for Barcelona. With recent injuries to Gerard Pique and Puyol, he’s been the rock back there.

Now, this seems to hold a lot of similarities for why Joseph was selected to play in the defense in the game against Vancouver. Danny Califf was out sick, Rauwshan McKenzie has been out of favor for a while now (to my knowledge, at least), and Bobby Burling is, well, he’s Bobby Burling. From this, it’s slightly easy to see why Fraser may have thought putting Joseph in the backline with Peter Vagenas ahead of him would be a good idea. Now, I can’t say as to whether or not it was the best idea – I watched maybe 10 minutes of this loss which became their seventh in a row. However, in the recaps I read, no one really brought notice to Joseph in the defense. It was all about, yet again, John Valencia’s failures in the back. I do think, however, slotting Joseph into the defense is what aided in the lack of offense. Chivas USA had ZERO shots on goal, which, quite frankly, is abysmal. I won’t repeat what’s basically been the same tune for the team this season regarding lack of offensive threat, but really now? That is probably the worst offensive showing they had all season.

I also want to mention that Ben Zemanski covered in defense last season a couple of times and it wasn’t that horrible. He was a bit promising but definitely showed why he is a midfielder and not a defender.

I’m going to get back to Chivas USA, but first, the other comparisons to FCB. Earlier this season, Alicia wrote a great piece about the constant lineup changes for Chivas USA. Contrastingly, Barcelona has yet to field the same starting lineup this season, and has been known to have quite inconsistent lineups from game to game in the past. Additionally, most of the changes for them come in defense and the forwards, similar to Chivas USA. The most startling change was the selection of fullback Adriano as CB for this past weekend’s Clasico (which definitely proved shaky). Despite these odd tactical decisions, FC Barcelona continues to dominate. As we all know, they are one of the best club teams in the world. And even though they’ve used a different starting lineup for every match this season and rotated various midfielders into defense, they’ve only lost one match (to rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup back in August).

The reasons why said tactics aren’t working for Chivas USA are quite obvious. They don’t have the players to make these decisions work. For instance, the rotating lineup works when you have players like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi to orchestrate your plays for you and break down defenders. We’ve seen those players in various overlapping runs in fluid positions getting wins and scoring goals. Chivas USA has NO player who has proven to really do that in any capacity this season. I don’t mean to be so harsh but honestly, the lack of offensive prowess this team has shown this season is exactly why the tactics aren’t working. There just isn’t the ability to execute such tactics. Maybe Fraser sees something else with the players in practice that makes him think otherwise but half the time, the lineups are the problem of this squad. When you are selecting players to play, let’s say, a 4-2-3-1 when maybe one or two of those top half players will go forward, it won’t work. Sure, we’ve seen the team have lots of chances that don’t equate to goals, but that doesn’t get you to the playoffs.

As for the defense, well, again, obvious problems. It started out somewhat decently and began to go downhill when everything else on the team also fell apart. For a team coached by such defensive minded people in Fraser and Greg Vanney, it’s quite scary what our defense has become. They fielded 3 defenders in this weekend’s draw against FC Dallas. Sure, you get players like Jorge Villafana and Zemanski to come back and provide coverage but it’s just not going to work for this team as a whole. Additionally, coming into the match with a seven game losing streak and conceding lots of goals makes one further question the tactics going on here.

Obviously, the Barcelona-esque choices Fraser is making need to stop. Well, actually, they should’ve stopped a while ago. It’s been a formula for disaster since about June/July and is leading the team on a downward spiral. After starting out the season with promise and the hope of making it into the playoffs, the team has ended their season with one of their worst records in club history. We can only hope that the necessary changes are made.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!