CHIVAS USA: Goats ready for next step
Chivas USA can point to a lot of good in what hasn't been a particularly sharp start to the Major League Soccer season, in terms of possession and defensive work all over the field.
It has not been nearly enough, but the Goats believe they're about to turn a corner. A couple of goals Saturday night in Portland might be enough.
Chivas (1-3-0, 3 points) is coming off a solid week of training, head coach Robin Fraser said, following an impressive offensive performance in Monday's MLS Reserve League victory over the Galaxy.
“I think we really looked at a lot of our issues and, at the end of the day, talked about being aggressive in the attacking end of the field,” Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles after arriving Friday in Portland, Ore. “We had a good week of training in regard to that. Most important, I think, is the mentality of the team continues to solidify to do the things we need to do to be successful.
“I think our runs were more aggressive [Monday], our ideas were more aggressive, and certainly that needs to translate [into Saturday's game].”
Cesar Romero, who against netted his second hat trick with the reserve team, and Miller Bolaņos, the Ecuadoran attacker who so ably partnered Romero, could get a look against the Timbers. They prospered in a 4-4-2 alignment, with diamond midfield -- Chivas' preferred system last year. The Goats have used a 4-2-3-1 most of this season, including all four league matches.
Rookie Casey Townsend has gotten starts the past three games in Juan Pablo Angel's absence, and he has Chivas' lone goal this season, a heads-up finish to beat Real Salt Lake two weeks ago in Sandy, Utah.
The other three matches, all at home, have been 1-0 defeats marked by superb defending, a healthy amount of possession and inadequate penetration. In four games, the Goats have created four true goal chances.
It's all about being more aggressive when on attack, Fraser believes, and if they can better implement that, well, this team could be much better than assumed.
“I think we have to execute what we've talked about all year,” said defender Heath Pearce, who spent some of his youth in Portland and starred at the University of Portland. “We can't just talk about it anymore, it has to be an execution thing. We believe in all the players around us, and if everyone does what they're capable of, then three points is not unrealistic.”
WORTH NOTING: Angel has returned to training but continues to deal with MLS's post-concussion protocol and did not travel to Portland. He said Friday that he was pushing himself, seeing how he reacted to increased action and working to regain confidence. … Winger Michael Lahoud, sidelined by a hamstring strain since two days before the opener, hopes “by the end of next week [to] be in the mix” to return to action. He played fully in training for the first time Friday and said the “next step is explosiveness.” … Also missing this week: midfielder Peter Vagenas, who suffered a rib injury in Monday's MLS Reserve League victory over the Galaxy and was scheduled to have X-rays taken Friday, and defenders David Junior Lopes and Jorge Villafaņa, who did not travel. ... The Timbers lead the series, 2-1-0, splitting MLS games last season (both 1-0 home wins) and winning an U.S. Open Cup qualifier. … Defender Matt Dallman, on trial with Chivas since mid-February, has been released from camp.
- THE OPPONENT
Head coach: John Spencer
Key players: F Kris Boyd, M Darlington Nagbe, G Troy Perkins, M James Marcelin, M Kalif Alhassan.
Local guys: M Sal Zizzo (UCLA).
Update: John Spencer nearly took the expansion Timbers to the MLS playoffs last year, and they looked electric rallying from deficits to beat Philadelphia and claim a draw at Sporting Kansas City. But they've given up the first goal in all four games and are coming off successive one-goal losses at New England and at home against Real Salt Lake, which scored in the 89th minute and in stoppage to pull out a 3-2 decision. Scottish striker Boyd, a pure finisher, could be a huge star in MLS, and Nagbe is maturing into a special player -- he has three goals, two in last week's loss, one of those the winner of MLS's Goal of the Week vote.
- INJURY REPORT
Out: F Juan Pablo Angel (head contusion), M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear).
Doubtful: M Michael Lahoud (right hamstring strain).
Questionable: M Peter Vagenas (rib contusion). PORTLAND TIMBERS
Out: D Mamadou “Futty” Danso (left foot fracture), F Eddie Johnson (concussion), M James Marcelin (left hamstring strain).
Doubtful: D David Horst (right hip surgery), D Hanyer Mosquera (concussion).
Questionable: M Sal Zizzo (left ACL surgery).
Probable: M Kalif Alhassan (left groin strain), G Joe Bendik (right knee soreness).
- THE GAME
Referee: Chris Penso
TV: KDOC/Channel 56 (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)