Hey, check it out! We're playing the Goats this weekend. Alicia Ratterree decided to give us a moment of her time to talk about the match. Why not give her a moment of your time to read what she had to say, huh?
Got a chance to talk with Alicia from our Chivas USA blog The Goat Parade the other day. I answered some questions about the Rapids, she answered some questions about Chivas USA. I got to ask questions about the mysterious force that is known as "El Chelis".
Here were my answers to her questions about our Rapids, go see if I have done us proud and if any Chiva ULTRAS are talking smack about us in the comments (like I do).
Enjoy Alicia's COMPREHENSIVE answers here.
1. Chivas USA has surprised everyone this year, but come on, it's not for real, is it? Surely it must be a dream! What about the play on the field, or the talk off the field, or practices, makes you think that these kinds of results are sustainable or is this just beginners luck and people not taking Chivas seriously and paying for it?
I think these are good questions, and the honest answer is that I don't know if this early success will be sustainable for the entire season. I don't necessarily think teams are taking Chivas USA lightly on the whole - it's more fans who do that than players and coaches, but the record, and the fact that the team has improved on every performance this season, is certainly a surprise.
I think what has worked so far has been pretty straightforward. I think Chelís has made it clear to the team that they won't go anywhere without buying into his system (which is true), so the team appears to be 100% with him. They play a physical style, but they also have skill to help them score. And they fight back from adversity, as they have been behind in three of their five games, and picked up four points after conceding the lead. I mean, they will surely have bad performances in the remaining games, but the effort and teamwork on display, plus Chelís' astute coaching decisions, have made me believe they shouldn't go into a death spiral again this year.
2. The RapKids have been a growing sensation this year, and they are the 2nd or 3rd string guys. Since your squad is in a transitional phase, are you concerned with depth this year? Or do you think El Chelis has exactly the guys who he needs to play his system?
What's funny is that Chelís has played nearly everybody on his roster already this season, and while there have been some injuries, and they aren't carrying a full 30-man roster, there's no real crisis to speak of as there has been with Colorado. I think the coach realized that there aren't too many players truly starter-worthy on the squad (so far, Dan Kennedy, Mario de Luna, Edgar Mejia, and Juan Agudelo appear to be the only locked-in starters as long as they remain healthy), so he simply plays different players each match. Unlike Robin Fraser, who loved rotating his squad but with little rhyme or reason to what he was doing, Chelís has given nearly everybody a shot on the field so far. Remarkably, every single player who has featured for the first team has earned at least a point, so the rotation is working. Additionally, it appears like the promise of getting minutes has motivated all of the players to stay hungry and make sure they train hard every week, and I can't complain about that.
I think depth could be a factor, however, when we get to fixture congestion in the summer and the international schedule gets complicated. On the bright side, Chivas don't have many internationals, but I would expect Juan Agudelo will be called up to the U.S. national team, possibly for the Gold Cup, if he's playing well and remains healthy, and that could be a blow for the Goats. The scoring load is being spread around at present, but Agudelo is leading the line better than anybody right now, and another player or two will need to step up if he's going to be out of the lineup for a sustained period.
3. You've had a complete turnaround from Robin Fraser's, let's put it kindly, "timid" approach to attacking. But Chelis has already changed his tactics, first trying to go ahead with tica-taca and now going with a high-pressure aggressive style of play a-la San Jose and Kansas City (you know, except not behaving like criminals like San Jose). The Rapids also like playing an attacking game, though preferring a slow build up differently than Chivas. While the results speak for themselves thus far, how successful do you think this has been in terms of the attacking game itself for Chivas?
The attack is still very much a work-in-progress, in my opinion. Yes, they have scored a solid number of goals so far (nearly 50% of the way to last year's tally!), but more often than not, they've truly attacked for no more than a half per match. To some extent, that's fine, since they've gotten results and the context of a given match may have required it, but they don't look like they are going for goal constantly. Whereas last season, Chivas loved holding onto the ball in the middle third, but had players ill-equipped or unwilling to really go for goal, this year's group has shown they won't hesitate in pulling the trigger. I think because of the style of play currently employed, they've been told they can't expect a bucketload of chances, so they better convert on the few they get.
What's remarkable is that Chivas have been really efficient in converting said chances. They have gotten 10 goals off 20 shots on goal (they sit in 12th in that category). The other team with 10 goals, FC Dallas, has taken 34 SOG. I think a question can be asked about the sustainability of that efficiency, and I doubt it is tenable. So if Chivas want to avoid a slump, they are going to have to give themselves even more good chances on goal in order to weather tough performances.
4. What does El Chelis have to do to shut up the nay-sayers?
What isn't he doing? He says some crazy things, but he hasn't yet gone too far on that count. He is legitimately a good coach: his system is sound, his lineups are working, and he has been a maestro at substitutions so far. He's a terrific dresser. He smacks himself in the head in postgame press conferences to make a point.
I guess the bigger question is how will the club shut up the naysayers. They need to market the team better in Southern California. They need a local TV deal. Jorge Vergara needs to spend some real money. They need their own stadium. Those are all real concerns, and issues hanging over the club right now. But Chelís? He's doing his job better than we could have hoped. Right now, he's doing it so well that he's covering Vergara's butt, too.