KeyBank Scouting Report: Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers - Oct. 26, 2013

Veteran Carlos Bocanegra leads a scrappy Chivas USA side in the regular season finale

KBSR, Carlos Bocanegra

Photo Credit: 
(USA Today Sports Images)

In their final regular season game of 2013, the Portland Timbers come up against Chivas USA for the third time (Oct. 26, 7:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 101 FM KXL / La Pantera 940). Discover everything you need to know about the opposition in this report.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Timbers expect?
It is always dangerous when facing a team with seemingly little to fight for – Chivas USA are out of the running for the playoffs – but underestimating any opponent is not something Portland will be doing. For the Timbers, it is all about maintaining their own consistency and treating Chivas with the respect that they deserve, because it is a team that can hurt them in a lot of areas.

Quick to transition from defense to attack, Chivas will sometimes leave gaps as they gamble with pushing extra men forward. This can result in pushing their opposition back inside their own half of the pitch and lead to the creation of chances on goal. However, it can also leave them vulnerable to counterattacks, which is something that the Timbers have used to their advantage this season.

Where are they most vulnerable?
In order to provide more protection to their defense, Chivas has recently shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Oswaldo Minda and Edgar Mejia charged with shielding their backline. Although if one of those players drifts forward to join attacks, then space opens up in the midfield of the field and that is where Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara do most of their damage when driving on.

At outside back, Chivas has undergone more changes than they care to admit and still they have not solidified the position. Carlos Boja and Jaime Frias occupied the roles in their most recent game – 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake in midweek – but they found themselves under a lot of pressure and Timbers could look to exploit this side of the Goats lineup.

Who are their main threats?
The main man for Chivas is striker Erick Torres, who has been superb since joining on loan from their sister club in Mexico. He runs the channels, drags defenders out of position, springs to life inside the opposition’s penalty area, and knows how to finish. If they can supply him with the right kind of service then he will be a real threat, but creating chances has been an issue for this team with only 30 goals scored.

In midfield, rookie Carlos Alvarez has been a revelation and surely a bright future is ahead of him. He can often be the creative spark, despite his lack of experience, while Eric Avila and Bryan de la Fuente match work ethic with flashes of flair. And watch out for Julio Morales, who is getting better all of the time and can prove to be a useful impact substitute as a fleet-footed forward.

KEY MEN

Head coach: Jose Luis Real
Brought in to replace the lively Jose Luis Sanchez Sola in May, this 61-year-old coach had spent his entire career in his native Mexico before moving into the StubHub Center. Whilst in charge of Chivas Guadalajara, he led them to a runners-up finish in the Copa Libertadores. The confidence that he has instilled in the team has been one of the reasons for their improved form, but there is still work to do in reshaping the roster.

Star Player: Carlos Bocanegra
Back in MLS following almost a decade in Europe, where he played for Fulham, Rennes, Saint Etienne, Rangers and Racing Santander, the 110-times capped United States international has been there and done that. A natural leader, the 34-year-old has brought some much-needed stability to the Chivas backline, where has struck up a good partnership with Bobby Burling, and should be a key figure as they aim to finish the season on a high.

One To Watch: Tristan Bowen
Not always a starter, but this California native can make a big impact if not marked closely. By using his power and pace, the young forward can burst into areas where opposition defenders don’t want him to be and his hold-up play enables him to link well with team-mates. There is still a lot for him to tighten up in his game, yet Bowen is the type of player who can snatch all three points for his team if given even half a chance in front of goal.

FLASHBACK

What happened when the teams last met?
It took Valeri just five minutes to stamp his arrival as a second-half substitute with a goal as he rescued a point for the Timbers in their 1-1 tie away to Chivas back on September 14. The Goats took the lead through de la Fuente, who headed past keeper Donovan Ricketts, but the visitors roared back and registered 12 shots on goal as they scrapped for a deserved draw.

What did the Timbers learn from that game?
There has been several times throughout the season when the Timbers have come up against a team determined to stop them from playing – this was such a game. With 81 per cent accuracy from their 490 passes, Porter’s men enjoyed 60 per cent possession of the ball and made 29 crosses. It was typical of the Timbers this season to dominate in those areas, but they were chasing the game from the 23rd minute.

What they learned was that persistence pays off. Reacting to that early goal, they increased the tempo and saw their advantage shoot up from the 35th minute through to the 90th minute – pretty much controlling the game. But it took a powerful strike from Valeri to get them back level, which showed them that dominating play isn’t always enough, it takes something daring to earn a reward.

What did the coaches have to say at the time?

Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
“I think in some way, for whatever reason, we didn’t play, not everybody, but a few guys, with the urgency, the sharpness, the focus, the hunger that they needed to. There was a bit of casualness at times out of our play.”

Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Real
“It was the most complete game and I’m happy because even though we didn’t win, we played a rival who is one of the strongest and I feel, not satisfied, because we had the opportunity to win it.”

How has Chivas fared since then?
Before the game with the Timbers, Chivas had beaten D.C. United 1-0 at home, but that has proved to be their last victory. They have since lost four games in a row – away to Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, and home to San Jose Earthquakes – as their difficult season continues to drag on without much luck falling their way.

Did You Know?
Chivas has averaged 0.79 points per game, which is the exact same as Toronto FC, but still ahead of D.C. United’s 0.48 ppg as the three worst teams in the league this season are quite a way off the Timbers’ 1.64 ppg.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandTimbers.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.