Last season, I lamented Robin Fraser's constant squad rotation policy. Instead of getting into a rhythm, it appeared the midfield and strikers were thrown in and out of the lineup all season, and I would argue one consequence of that policy was the league-worst goals tally in 2012.
Just three games into this season, however, an interesting picture emerges. Chivas USA has a new coach, Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, and in the earlygoing, with a win, a loss, and a draw to his team's record, he appears to like to throw players in and out of the lineup as well.
Chivas currently have 27 players in their 2013 squad. 19 of those players have already seen time on the field in the first three games. There are players Chelís clearly values as his starters, but he isn't afraid to switch the roles, give some players starter's minutes one game and come off the bench the next, or skip over some players altogether from game to game. That Chivas have gained points in their last two matches indicates that the squad rotation isn't hindering the team - in fact, it is helping them get results.
Consider the table. Here is the full list of players who have featured in the first three games, complete with their record in those matches and scoring statistics:
|Mario de Luna||3||1||1||1||0||0|
One interesting fact that comes out of this table is that every single player who has featured this season has contributed to a win or draw this season. Chelís gave each of the players who featured in the loss against the Columbus Crew to start the season a chance to redeem themselves in one or both of the subsequent matches. At the same time, in the latter two matches, he hasn't been afraid to bring in new players. That showed itself most notably yesterday against the Galaxy, although injuries and the circumstances of the match forced his hand in some respects.
With Walter Vilchez out injured, Chelís stuck with what was largely expected and played de Luna and Velazquez once more in the defense, and put Burling on the backline in Vilchez's place. Instead of bringing on a fourth defender and playing him higher up the field, the coach opted for just the three defenders to start the match.
With Minda going out after just 18 minutes with an injury, Chelís went with a like-for-like switch and brought Iraheta back into the team. Then, after Velazquez's red card, the manager went with a quick sub before halftime, bringing on Borja for Morales. Although Borja is a defender and Morales a forward, the tactical switch essentially split the difference and Borja played higher up the field, eventually getting nearly to the endline on his game-tying assist to Alvarez. Meanwhile, Alvarez entered the game at the half for Correa, who has looked ineffective so far this season, and in switching to a one forward system, with Agudelo leading the line, the bulk of the work went to defending the Galaxy for the final 50 minutes. Adding Alvarez to the mix gave the Goats another body to clog up the midfield, but when Chivas did make moves into the final third, Alvarez always pushed up and tried to build the attack along with Agudelo and Avila.
As a result, the versatility and the apparent fitness of all of the Chivas players who have featured so far this season indicates Chelís feels confident about who to use and when. As I noted yesterday, although some starters do not always put in a strong showing, he knows who to pull and doesn't wait, and his subs have been universally effective so far. And by giving most of the roster a chance to play early in the season, it means the motivation remains high both for those who have played, as well as those still waiting to get their opportunity. Unlike the often-puzzling and largely ineffective rotation policy Fraser used last season, so far Chelís is showing that playing a lot of guys doesn't necessarily hurt a team.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!