Contrary to popular opinion (ok, maybe not), I am not an MLS manager. I realize it is a difficult job and that quick fixes that fans and folks like myself advocate might not really make a difference. But allow me to attempt to troubleshoot the problems that face Chivas USA in the scoring department in 2012. At this point, they are in the very basement in the league standings concerning goals scored, and while more goals do not necessarily equal more wins, in Chivas' case, more goals would certainly make a difference. Chivas haven't scored since the first half against Toronto FC, and it's been more than two and a half games without a goal - and not coincidentally, they haven't picked up any points in the last two matches.
So let's run down some concerns and potential fixes that could help jumpstart the scoring for the Goats. Feel free to comment on these and add some recommendations yourself in the comments section.
1. Play more forwards
I understand the rationale behind Robin Fraser's use of a single central striker this season. Whether there are concerns about the defense and he wants to pack the midfield, there are simply more talented midfielders who should be playing than forwards, or a 4-3-3 formation provides support for the central forward, it makes sense theoretically. But let's face it - it's not working. Not to take anything away from the Philadelphia Union or the Colorado Rapids, but neither defense has really been particularly impenetrable this season. To look at their games against Chivas, however, they looked like top-notch defensive sides.Perhaps a fix to the lack of goals is to pair another striker with Juan Pablo Angel. Although Angel has looked most dangerous of the strikers overall in his three matches this season, only Casey Townsend has actually scored among the striker corps (I consider Alejandro Moreno to be playing as a midfielder at this point, although I suppose he's a hybrid depending on the match). Put Angel with Townsend, Cesar Romero, Moreno, or new signing Jose Correa (when he's available). Chivas need players making runs in the box, and having a couple of guys that defenses have to deal with will improve Chivas' chances of scoring, as will having a forward right in front of goal who is able to nab a goal on a rebound. Although Fraser seems to be figuring out his depth chart up top, he needs to give the youngsters some minutes, or else their development will not proceed.
2. Mix up the distribution
Chivas have been very good in providing crosses this season. Between Ryan Smith, Miller Bolanos, Ante Jazic, and Laurent Courtois, this component of the attack looks considerably improved from last season. But those crosses are effectively useless if nobody scores off them. Now, all of Chivas' goals, directly or indirectly, have come from crosses or corner kicks, but it seems clear that opposing defenses have figured that part of Chivas' game out and are neutralizing crosses well. Chivas need to distribute the ball on the ground more as well, including crosses on the ground from time to time. It's not a radical idea, but if they mix it up, then they can perhaps catch opponents surprised when they keep the ball on the ground and hit a runner to the far post, or pass vertically through the field instead of automatically passing to the flanks. I think Paolo Cardozo has been good at dribbling just outside the box centrally the last two games, but he needs to work on getting that breakthrough pass to a teammate. If he can add this element, that gives the attack another, much-needed dimension.
3. Keep Shooting
Chivas are in the middle of the pack at this point with 89 shots on the season (tied for 9th), and are in 10th place for shots on goal, with 27. That means they have converted just under 15 percent of their shots on goal this season. In contrast, the team currently leading the league in goals, the New York Red Bulls, have 18 goals in 42 shots on goal, making for a 43 percent conversion rate. Obviously, having Thierry Henry on a tear to start the season helps matters, but Chivas need to keep shooting high quality shots. Obviously, shooting terrible shots that sky over the bar doesn't help matters, as the Montreal Impact would demonstrate (leading the league in shots on goal, with 45, but only scoring nine goals, for a 20 percent conversion rate). Still, this team won't score if they don't take shots, and Chivas seem to be reluctant to shoot far too often.
4. Win, convert a penalty
Sorry, I'm going to keep harping on this until the drought is snapped. The mind-numbingly long drought, that is.
5. Prioritize set pieces
I think Chivas might be heading in the right direction with the turn by Miller Bolanos taking corner kick duties and some free kicks the past few games. Put simply, his service, particularly on corners, looks far better than any other player on the roster. And many teams in the league have trouble with teams with excellent dead-ball specialists. Graham Zusi basically earned his way into the Sporting Kansas City lineup with his set piece delivery, and he looks like the biggest breakout star in the league over the past two seasons. Brad Davis should have been MVP last season, in my opinion, as his dead-ball delivery led a less-than-explosive Houston Dynamo attack to the MLS Cup Final. And there's a player for the Galaxy who has extended his career by virtue of his free kick abilities, to considerable effect. If Chivas are finding trouble scoring in the run of play, then they need to work on bolstering their chances on set pieces.
6. Get another scorer
The simplest answer, but the hardest to accomplish. We'll have to see if Correa gets in the lineup quickly or if there will be an adjustment period where he's kept under wraps, and we'll have to see how he looks when he does start playing. But Chivas may want to seriously consider trading for a player who could score, or signing another scorer when the transfer window re-opens. Are there many scorers in the league who are on the trading block? In a word, no. But this might be a topic to explore further, especially if Chivas' scoring woes continue indefinitely.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!