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Tactical Talk: Wilmer Cabrera switches Chivas USA's formation, but uneven performance leads to draw

Should we look at the draw positively or negatively?

Lochhead: Tough day at the office.
Lochhead: Tough day at the office.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Chivas USA saw their chance to take away three points evaporate on the game's final play, when a Peguy Luyindula header gave the New York Red Bulls a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Despite the ultimate result, coach Wilmer Cabrera has to be happy with the way his players performed in the first 45 minutes. Cabrera lined up his formation in a 4-1-4-1 shape, featuring Agustin Pelletieri as holding midfielder in front of the back four, with Carlos Alvarez and Thomas McNamara to compete in the center of midfield. Cabrera switched from his usual 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1 to give protection to his team in the middle of the pitch.

Offensively, right wing Mauro Rosales was Chivas USA's main attacking threat. Playing as a winger who drifts inside, Rosales showed the skills you want in a modern attacking flanker: he has been good starting the build-up, showed he's capable of penetration, and he was able to drift to the channels in order to combine with the other offensive players.

But the key of the tactical battle was the strategy without the ball. The Goats have been impressively structured defensively and their main strategy was a high defensive line: the goal was to push both Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill up, forcing them away from goal. Chivas USA's high line were combined with good midfield pressing as they added a consistent amount of pressure, breaking up New York's build-up.

Mike Petke's side couldn't deal with the high defensive line Chivas USA employed in the first half and it resulted in few scoring chances for the Red Bulls in the first 45 minutes.

On the other hand, Chivas USA's tactics worked perfectly although they had too many lapses offensively, as the Goats wasted many good scoring opportunities on the counter.

This shape didn't continue into the second half, however, when New York got the ball into the final third frequently, forcing the away side to sit deep, parking the bus. In soccer, there are usually two reasons why a team is forced to park the bus: it's a coach's choice or they are forced to do it by the opponents. For Chivas USA this was likely the latter case. The Red Bulls came out strongly in the second half, forcing Chivas USA deep in their own territory and creating a lot of very good scoring chances.The four-man midfield wasn't protecting the defense adequately and the Goats suffered, particularly on the left flank where the team was unable to contain New York wide right midfielder Lloyd Sam. Pressure increased and Chivas USA defended the penalty box breathlessly.

Left back Tony Lochhead was disappointing on his flank and he didn't get help from Leandro Barrera. To change things, Cabrera switched to a kind of 4-4-2, moving McNamara on the left side and bringing on Adolfo Bautista up top. The experiment didn't work as New York continued to control the game and add pressure to Chivas USA's defensive line. So the equalizer was just a question of time. But the fact it happened in injury time magnifies the disappointment and obviously hurts, as Cabrera admitted after the game.

In other words, this is a case of 'glass half empty or glass half full.' At the end of the day, if you take a look to the first half and the fact you allowed a score just at the end of the match, the glass would be half empty. But all things considered, the Goats came out from New York with a point, something that is far from guaranteed on the road.

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