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Tactical Preview: Fire vs Chivas USA

Arne Friedrich looks set to be partnered by rookie Austin Berry tonight.
Arne Friedrich looks set to be partnered by rookie Austin Berry tonight.

Chivas Formation Change - Help for Angel

Against Colorado away last week, Chivas deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation with Juan Pablo Angel up front as the lone striker. Chivas failed to get the ball to the aging striker and the few times he was able to hold up the ball, he had little support from his teammates. I look for coach Robin Fraser to switch the formation to a more orthodox 4-4-2 against the Fire to give more support to Angel. They will certainly need to be more adventurous, especially considering the fact that they have picked up zero points at home this season. Alejandro Moreno is back from injury and should start up front with Angel. Against Colorado, they deployed Laurent Courtois on the left hand side of midfield and he had little impact. His replacement, Ryan Smith, looked a lot more lively and played a big part in Chivas's much improved second half (minus the last 8 minutes). I look for Smith to start over Courtois against the Fire.

Chivas - Known for Defense but Cracks are Evident

The most common words/phrases used to describe Chivas among MLS pundits are "compact," "organized" and "defensively sound." That being said, there are certainly some cracks in their armor that the Fire can exploit. The first is at left back where Ante Jazic is beginning to show his age at 36. For most of the match against Colorado, the Rapids tried to get 2v1 situations against Jazic which led to much success. Against Philly, the Fire recognized quickly that the Union left back could be exploited and they pushed everything down that side. It wouldn't surprise me if we see that against Chivas, especially because on the other side, James Riley is a very competent MLS right back. Another reason to go after Jazic, and frankly both wings, is that the Chivas outside midfielders fail to track back and help out defensively very often. Jazic and Riley were left exposed constantly against Colorado and I look for the Fire to exploit this weakness.

Fire - Keep Switching the Field But Also Get in the Box!

In the game against Seattle, the Fire switched (or attempted to) switch the field more than any other game this season. There were over a half dozen examples of Anibaba and co switching the field with 60 yard passes. Granted, many of these failed to come off because of the crazy wind that night at Toyota Park but it was very encouraging to see. Too often the Fire take too long to switch the play, taking three passes instead of one but sometimes the risk of the long cross-field ball is one worth taking. Another major gripe this year is that the Fire don't get enough people in the box during attacks. Obviously on counter attacks it's tough considering the speed of Nyarko and Oduro but when one of the two strikers goes wide to receive the ball, it usually limits us to having only one player in the box which makes it very difficult. Against Seattle, the Fire got folks in the box in larger numbers and, with a little bit more luck; the team could have scored one or two before halftime.

Need to Get Tighter Defensively/Another New Center Back Partnership

Against Seattle, the Fire's defenders, especially the outsider defenders were not tight enough, allowing Seattle to put in cross after cross. For the first goal, the defenders gave David Estrada too much room and he was able to play the ball across the box which was quickly deflected past Johnson by an unlucky Friedrich. With the double threat of Angel and Moreno, Chivas will be looking to get the ball in the box from wide areas as much as possible. Closing down the wingers/wing-backs will be very important for the Fire tonight. With Anibaba's suspension and Gibbs's injury, Austin Berry looks set to make his first MLS start at center back alongside Friedrich, the Fire's third center back partnership this season. It will certainly be a tough test for Berry against two of MLS's veteran strikers.