CARSON -- Robin Fraser isn't married to the 4-2-3-1 alignment he has fielded in Chivas USA's first three preseason matches, but there's a lot to it that seems to suit the Goats' personnel.
It positions Juan Pablo Angel, as true a pure striker as has played in MLS, right at the top, with three attackers running off him and two holding midfielders providing a foundation.
It provides space for Ryan Smith and the resurgent Michael Lahoud to exploit on the flanks.
And the options in the middle of the “3,” right behind Angel, are many and varied, with Nick LaBrocca, Alejandro Moreno and Ecuadoran newcomer Miller Bolaños bringing very different qualities to the post.
It's an exciting prospect for the Goats' attack, which might not have scored in Tuesday afternoon's loss to the Colorado Rapids at Home Depot Center -- a 1-0 decision, with Quincy Amarikwa ending a scoreless tie with five minutes to go -- but expects to be more consistently dangerous than it was last season.
“There seems to be a more dynamic attitude going forward and a little bit more aggression in terms of some of the things we're doing,” Moreno said. “We're getting into good spots, into good spaces, and we're completing the passes. That will allow a player like Juan Pablo to stay in the box and do things he knows how to do well, and that will allow some other players to get into the attack and make us a more dangerous team.”
The Goats played some terrific possession soccer most of last year, but it too often didn't translate into chances -- and when it did, the goals didn't necessarily follow. Fraser's favored system last year was a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, and he used a flat 4-4-2 in the second halves of Chivas' first two preseason games. This time, he used the 4-2-3-1 after halftime, too.
What's best about it?
“It allows you to be solid in the middle of the field, both defensively and offensively,” Fraser explained. “Passing angles set up well out of that formation. I think that we'll be able to control (and we were able to control) possession quite a bit and be able to possess into their half. Out of that, we have a lot of players coming out of different spots making dangerous runs.”
And Chivas possesses “guys who are comfortable playing” on the wings, such as Smith and Lahoud, “and it's much more appealing to play with wide players when you have guys who are wide players, as opposed to trying to put a round peg in a square hole.
“Looking at the players that we've gotten, I think it makes sense, given the personalities and characteristics that we have.”
CLANGING SHOTS: Amarikwa scored from Steven Emory's feed in he 85th minute for the Rapids. Both teams hit posts: Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy deflected Omar Cummings' shot off the post in he 24th minute, and Smith hit the post in the 42nd for the Goats. Trialist Cesar Romero hit the left post seconds before the final whistle.
What Fraser termed “unbelievable, unfathomable turnovers” just above the box gave Colorado two good chances in the second half; Cummings should have done more facing a virtually empty net.
The Rapids played their first-choice lineup longer than Chivas, which changed its team at halftime. Colorado coach Oscar Pareja didn't make his first substitutions until the 58th minute.
Chivas played a could-be starting XI in the first half -- LaBrocca, coming off a bout with flu, did not play -- and a second-half group that featured just six contracted players (although a few others are close to pacts). The difference was noticeable.
“The second group is a lot of young players, guys who are trialists, and we had a 16-year-old [Academy midfielder Marco Delgado] play the whole second half,” Fraser said. “It's not going to be as clean as it is when you have [in Angel] a 36-year-old veteran of the [English Premier League] and [in Minda] a 28-year-old veteran of the Ecuadoran national team.
“There's going to be a difference. ... Realistically, you're going to see a drop in level. At the end of the day, I'm looking at it that we didn't handle it well, and it came down to our decisions in passing and execution in passing. I don't think that they were [good enough]. It is what it is. We're trying to get everyone minutes [and] assess players. It's going to be a tricky balance.”
WORTH NOTING: Midfielder Ben Zemanski passed his post-concussion tests and will return to training Monday. ... Marvin Iraheta's knee surgery likely will happen next week. ... Fraser said Bolaños would be ready to play “if all progresses, we think by next week.” ... Danny Pena, the Galaxy's original defensive midfielder, was among those watching. He met with Fraser, his old teammate, after the match. Also on hand was Fernando Clavijo, former head coach of the Rapids and New England and a starting left back for the U.S. at the 1994 World Cup. ... Chivas plays Saturday against the Chicago Fire at Oxnard College.
Home Depot Center Field 4 (Carson)
Chivas USA 0, Colorado Rapids 1
Colo -- Quincy Amarikwa (Steven Emory) 85
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy (Tim Melia, 46); James Riley (R.J. Allen, 46), John Alexander Valencia (Rauwshan McKenzie, 46), Heath Pearce (David Junior Lopes, 46; Daniel Steres, 72), Ante Jazic (Jorge Villafaña, 46); Peter Vagenas (Marco Delgado, 46), Oswaldo Minda (Blair Gavin, 46); Michael Lahoud (Cesar Romero, 46), Alejandro Moreno (Laurent Courtois, 46), Ryan Smith (Kennedy Chongo, 46); Juan Pablo Angel (Chris Cortez, 46).
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens (Ian Joyce, 58); Kosuke Kimura (Hunter Freeman, 58), Marvell Wynne (Alejandro Guido, 76), Tyrone Marshall (Scott Palguta, 64), Luis Zapata (Eddie Ababio, 67); Pablo Mastroeni (Tony Cascio, 61), Jeff Larentowicz (Steven Emory, 67), Jaime Castillon (Ross LaBauex, 64); Brian Mullan (Wells Thompson, 58), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa, 61), Jefferson Angulo (Andre Akpan, 72).
Yellow cards: Marshall 29.
Referee: Chris Penso. Att.: c. 100.
CHIVAS USA PRESEASON
Record: 1-2-0; vs, MLS: 0-1-0
Jan. 27 vs. Ventura County Fusion (PDL), 60 mins.: L, 0-1
Feb. 3 vs. FC Hasental (NPSL): W, 5-0 (Lahoud 22, Angel pen. 24, Smith 40, Cortez 50., Romero 89)
Feb. 7 vs. Colorado Rapids: L, 0-1
Feb. 11 vs. Chicago Fire at Oxnard College
Feb. 16 vs. Galaxy at Home Depot Center
Feb. 22 vs. Club Tijuana (Mexico) at University of San Diego
Feb. 27 vs. AIK (Sweden) at Portland, Ore.
March 1 at Portland Timbers
March 4 vs. San Jose Earthquakes at Portland, Ore.