CHIVAS USA 2012: Key men on the field
MOST IMPORTANT FIGURE
This is a most blue-collar team, and its leaders -- and chief on-field figures -- are hard-working battlers with a bit of skill. Alejandro Moreno (shifting from forward to a holding-midfield role), midfield leader Nick LaBrocca (capable of playing many places, must be on the field) and center back Heath Pearce (solidified a transient backline last year) are the sheriffs.
ALL EYES ARE ON
Juan Pablo Angel stepped in last August after a tumulutous spell with the Galaxy and quickly demonstrated his quality, scoring seven goals in nine games with the club (six of them in four straight games). He has more support up front, with Casey Townsend and Cesar Romero, but hitting double figures for the sixth straight season is a must. MVP Dan Kennedy was a revelation in the nets, but he hasn't looked as sharp this preseason. The Goats need him at his best.
Michael Lahoud has shown off his versatility, for the good (all around midfield) and not so good (a tough spell at right back last year), but he's got his own position now (on the right flank) and is coming off a superb preseason, in which he was dangerous from the wing or when cutting inside. The fourth-year pro could make a breakthrough in 2012.
There are a lot of new and influential faces around, but the Goats' game looks as if it will rotate around Ecuadoran midfielders Miller Bolaņos and Oswaldo Minda. They're nothing alike: Minda is a big, strong, smart, athletic, veteran defensive midfielder; Bolaņos, a young, impudent, slashing attacker with skill and ideas.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?
You can understand why Robin Fraser and his staff found Maryland striker Casey Townsend so alluring. The No. 5 overall pick in January's MLS SuperDraft fits perfectly into the character of this club: He's all about grit and work ethic, willing to do whatever it takes -- no matter the risks to his heath -- to put the ball in the net.