CARSON -- Chivas USA has quickly revealed itself as a most effective road team, winning all three encounters away from Home Depot Center after staving off extended pressure and scoring goals both beautiful and timely.
Victories at Real Salt Lake, Portland and last week in Toronto have produced within the team a standard of confidence absent since the glory days of Preki's reign, and suddenly the Goats are starting to look like a genuine contender for a postseason berth, perhaps more.
Their next step? Prove they can win at home.
Chivas (3-3-0, 9 points) is zero for Home Depot Center, with three losses in three home games -- all by 1-0 scorelines -- heading into Saturday night's match against the Philadelphia Union at Home Depot Center. Road wins are terrific, but a team can't succeed unless they claim points at home.
“We need it,” midfielder Nick LaBrocca said. “We definitely need to win at home. Dropping three [points] at home is definitely something to be forgotten.”
Since they were last home, three weeks ago in a defeat to still-perfect Sporting Kansas City, Chivas has overcome a deficit with two second-half goals, both off astoundingly good service from Ryan Smith, to win in Portland, then tallied from a corner kick and held on against a heavy win to pick up all the points in Toronto.
A better focused, more aggressive attacking mindset is turning possession into chances, and the Goats' defense has been among the best in the league -- in great part because of Ecuadoran midfielder Oswaldo Minda, who has been dominant in the middle. Miller Bolaños, Minda's Ecuadoran countryman, is starting to assert himself.
“Everyone's personalities are starting to come out,” LaBrocca said. “You can't just throw it all out there right away without knowing where to really be effective. ... We're starting to see more relationships being built. The chemistry on the field, on the ball is growing, and also learning the quality of you teammates and ... what position you need to be there to help them in.”
The Goats could have Juan Pablo Angel back against Philadelphia. The Colombian striker, who has missed the past five games, cleared MLS's post-concussion protocol Friday morning and will be available for selection. Maybe he starts, maybe he comes off the bench, maybe he doesn't play until Monday's MLS Reserve League match against Seattle.
“He's been fully in training and looking dangerous, scoring goals,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “It's definitely good to have him back in the mix.”
Angel scored seven goals in nine games with the Goats last year. The iffiest part of Chivas' game remains the attack, so Angel's return is important -- and could be the difference in turning things around at home. Chivas was only 5-7-5 in home games during Fraser's first season.
“It would be huge [to finally win at HDC],” LaBrocca said. “You usually rely on your home games to pick up points. It's extremely important for us because you can't always rely on going on the road and winning every single game, so getting those big points at home is going to be huge for us, especially if we want to make the playoffs.”
WORTH NOTING: Winger Michael Lahoud is officially “probable” on MLS's injury report, but Fraser says he's “still a little bit away” after tweaking his ailing hamstring in a reserve friendly a week and a half ago. Midfielder Peter Vagenas, listed as “questionable,” is out. ... Chivas' 4-2-3-1 alignment is shifting to a 4-1-4-1, all because of how dominant Minda has been. ... Minda, arguably MLS's best holding midfielder, will pick up a one-game suspension with his next yellow card. He has four in the first six games. ... The Union lead the series, 2-0-2, after winning at home last June and settling for a 1-1 draw at HDC in October after Angel's last-minute equalizer. ... Chivas is back on the road next weekend, at Colorado. ... Dan Kennedy, MLS's reigning Player of the Week, did not win for Save of the Week. That went to Montclair's (and UCLA's) Nick Rimando, whose stunning stop on Lawndale's (and Cal State Dominguez Hills') Kei Kamara kept Real Salt Lake in contention in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Kennedy was a finalist for the honor.
Head coach: Peter Nowak
Key players: M Freddy Adu, M Roger Torres, M Brian Carroll, F Danny Mwanga, D Danny Califf, D Carlos Valdes, M Gabriel Gomez.
Local guys: Califf (Orange), M/D Gabriel Farfan (Wildomar/Cal State Fullerton), M Michael Farfan (Wildomar/Cal State Fullerton), F Chandler Hoffman (UCLA), M Amobi Okugo (UCLA).
Update: Nowak caused quite the stir in Chester by trading away French forward Sebastien Le Toux, and the Union (1-3-1, 4 points) haven't found their attack since. They've scored just three goals in five games, and one of those came from the penalty spot on a call that could have gone the other way. Panamanian midfielder Gomez has two goals. Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy, Le Toux's replacement, could soon pair up with German Kai Herdling, acquired last week on loan from 1899 Hoffenheim. Freddy Adu returned to the lineup last week, his first appearance following Olympic qualifiers, and created the PK Gomez finished to beat Columbus.
Out: M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear).
Questionable: M Peter Vagenas (fractured rib).
Probable: M Michael Lahoud (right hamstring strain), M Ben Zemanski (right MCL sprain).
Out: M Roger Torres (left knee menisectomy/MCL sprain/tibial contusion), F Krystian Witkowski (concussion).
Questionable: D Danny Califf (left hamstring strain).
Probable: D Sheanon Williams (lip laceration), D Carlos Valdes (right calf strain).
Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
Referee: Juan Guzman
TV: Prime Ticket (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish, 8 p.m.)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)