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Tactical Talk: Chivas USA are getting lost in transition

After feeling like this team was moving forward, they now look like they're going in the other direction.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Chivas USA continued this poor stretch of bad performances, going from bad to worse. It never rains, it pours for CUSA after a blowout loss at Portland on Saturday. When the team seemed to have fixed things in the second part of this season, building some momentum following a four-match winning streak, the Rojiblancos felt like a rags to riches story, finding themselves moving off the bottom of a very tough Western Conference. But as many have said lately, those days seem long gone right now.

From a tactical viewpoint, it was another sad showing in which the Goats showed again a deadly lack of balance. Coach Wilmer Cabrera lined up his starting XI into a kind of 4-2-3-1 formation, with Oswaldo Minda and Agustin Pelletieri set up as holding midfielders behind an offensive quartet featuring Marvin Chavez and Mauro Rosales on the flanks with Nathan Sturgis operating just behind striker Erick ‘Cubo' Torres.

The game, if we can said that, was quickly lost in transition. Timbers' first score was exemplar: following a lost ball in the middle of the pitch, the Goats found themselves unbalanced and uncovered, with both the central pair of Minda and Pelletieri too high and with no midfielder able to recover, with the only exception of the offensive-minded Sturgis. That said, although the same Sturgis was easily bypassed by Diego Valeri, the Rojiblancos still had the whole backline in position to defend. But the defenders committed a mistake: with Eriq Zavaleta correctly stopping himself at the limit of the penalty box to face Valeri, the remaining part of the Chivas USA's backline collapse inside the box. It left Valeri unchallenged after his drifting movement that beat both Sturgis and Zavaleta as Tony Lochhead was covering Portland striker Fanendo Adi's cutting inside move.

So Valeri got the time and the space to send the ball past Dan Kennedy. This defensive misperception marks a lack of communication in the defensive side of the game and signaled the weakness CUSA continued to show in the transition game, a key part of modern soccer. "The quick transition is the most important aspect - quickly restructuring to defend or exploiting the opponent with speed when the ball is regained," José Mourinho once said.

By the way, as I mentioned earlier, the Goats also showed a worrisome lack of balance. In fact, as weak they are defending, CUSA also was awful with the ball. They were unable to exploit the weakness of a Timbers' defense that allowed as many as 38 goals in the previous 22 games. Chivas USA managed just nine shots and one alone on goal. The key, as Portland head coach Caleb Porter candidly admitted in the post-match thoughts, was that his team limited CUSA's crosses and throughballs up to Torres. Limiting the Mexican star was enough to nullify Chivas' offensive flair as this team spotlighted their lack of reliable offensive threats other than Torres.

But while the lack of other offensive weapons is a thing you can fix just the next pre-season -- and absolutely must be done -- the transitional game inefficiency is one that the coach could and should start to fix by now. This is an issue that plagued Chivas already in the previous road game and added mess to the troubled side.

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