Jose Luis Real is the new head coach for Chivas USA.
You probably don't know much about him, but one thing is clear: he's starting to slowly turn around a team that's struggled immensely over the last three months.
The Goats have pulled off three straight draws, and they've done it by switching formations and organizing into a more compact and disciplined group.
First, some background.
Earlier this year, former coach Jose Luis Sanchez Scola, aka "El Chelis", installed the uncommon 3-5-2 shape at Chivas USA. It's a formation you don't see often these days, but it's more popular among Mexican and Central American teams, specifically in Liga MX where Chelis had most of his coaching experience.
International soccer fans might recognize the 3-5-2 from this year’s title-winning Juventus team. In Juve’s shape, Andrea Pirlo sits as deep-lying playmaker, with two-way guys like Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal playing in front of him. There are two wide wingers who cover acres of space, while a stout, three man backline holds it down defensively.
The issue with the 3-5-2 is that you need wingers who can get up and down the field all day long. The shape is exposed when your outside players can’t cover defensively, and that’s mostly what happened when Chivas hit the skids in mid-April.
Union manager John Hackworth spoke a bit about the 3-5-2 in regards to Chivas USA this week.
"I think absolutely you’ve seen predominantly very few teams run with three guys in the back right now,” Hackworth explained. “That’s pretty much around the world. There are exceptions, especially in some Latin American countries. But I would emphasize that coach Real (has experience as) the president of player development at (parent club) Chivas de Guadalajara. So he has come here with very much the connection of Guadalajara and has just changed (the shape).”
Specifically, Real scrapped the 3-5-2 for a 4-1-4-1 shape in his first two games in charge. Chivas lost 3-0 in Vancouver, then battled to a 1-0 loss against cross-town rival Los Angeles.
Slight progress was there.
Even in the interim, caretaker coach Sacha van der Most decided to stray from the 3-5-2 in matches against Seattle and Carolina.
Real is taking the transformation a step further.
“His philosophy was maybe that they were too spread out he’s trying to give them some structure,” continued Hackworth. “There are a lot of Mexican teams that play that way (with a four-man backline). Not all of the teams play the way Chelis had them playing. So it’s interesting to see such a switch from two very Mexican coaches."
One June 29, Real deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Chivas stopped the bleeding with a 1-1 home draw against New England.
Now, on this East Coast road trip, he’s rolled out that formation in back to back games. The new shape resulted in a 0-0 draw at Dallas and a 1-1 draw in Montreal. Those are decent results.
The offense has certainly fallen off, but the defense has improved. For a team that was hemorrhaging goals, it has now conceded just three in the past four games.
Take a look and enjoy the watercooler debate:
Chivas USA's results under Jose Luis Real:
July 7: 1-1 draw at Montreal (4-2-3-1)
July 4: 0-0 draw at FC Dallas: (4-2-3-1)
June 29: 1-1 draw vs New England: (4-2-3-1)
June 23: 1-0 loss vs. Los Angeles: (4-1-4-1)
June 19: 3-1 loss at Vancouver: (4-1-4-1)
Chivas USA’s five final results under Chelis:
May 28: 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win at LA Blues: (4-4-2)
May 25: 2-0 loss at Colorado: (3-5-2)
May 19: 4-1 loss vs. Real Salt Lake (3-5-2)
May 12: 3-0 loss at Portland (3-5-2)
May 5: 4-0 loss at Kansas City (3-5-2)
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org