CHIVAS USA: It's personal, sort of, for Jimmy Conrad
Jimmy Conrad expects his first few minutes wearing a Chivas USA jersey in a real game will be a bit emotional, but that has nothing to do with the red and white stripes.
His tenure with the Goats begins Saturday night at Home Depot Center, and he couldn't envision a better first foe: Sporting Club Kansas City, the team he spent the past eight seasons leading from the rear.
The four-time Best XI center back was one of the most consistent performers and a fan favorite with the Kansas City Wizards, as Sporting previously was known, but head coach Peter Vermes informed him late last fall that he was no longer in the club's plans.
It worked out for Chivas USA, which acquired the former Temple City High School and UCLA standout in December's re-entry draft, and for Conrad, who is the backline anchor on a Goats team looking to build something special behind new head coach Robin Fraser.
That doesn't necessarily lessen the sting.
“There's a lot of reasons I want to win this game, regardless of the opponent,” Conrad said this week. “But it'd be nice [to beat K.C.] Anyone that's been let go from one team and now think that they didn't want you anymore, you obviously want to stick it to them a little bit. … I'm human.
“But after a few minutes of the game, once we get started, then its just another game, a matter of making good soccer decisions and organizing and putting guys in good spots and let everything else kind of fall where it goes.”
Conrad, 34, started 215 games for the Wizards, serving as captain and honored in 2005 as MLS Defender of the Year.
“I have all the respect in the world for Jimmy,” Vermes said Friday. “Jimmy's a great pro, a consummate guy. I can't say anything bad about him. It's the business, you know? It's unfortunate. … I think the thing about him, no matter where he is, he's going to play hard, he's going to be professional, he's going to do the business. He's going to be a big help to that team.”
Conrad has been outlining for Fraser his former teammates' strengths and weaknesses, the kind of set plays the team has run, tactical tendencies. He knows they know his game, too, “but there's more of them.”
He acknowledges that K.C.'s name change does alter things.
“If they were wearing [old] Kansas City jerseys and were still the Wizards, I think it would have more of an emotional wallop to it, but they're while different team. They've made a lot of changes -- a lot of the guys on the team I've only known for a year or two. It's not like there are eight or nine mainstays who have played there for seven of eight years. It's a pretty new identity there.
“I want the team to have success, I really do. I want Kansas City to have a winner, but just not at our expense.”
INJURY LIST: Blair Gavin (hamstring) and Michael Lahoud (knee laceration) are all but ready to go, but they probably won't for another week. Paulo Nagamura's calf strain hasn't gotten better -- he took a step back a week or so ago. Simon Elliott's sprained knee will keep him off the 18.
- THE OPPONENT:
SPORTING CLUB KANSAS CITY
Peter Vermes was a forward for the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup, and he nearly made the 1998 team as a defender. He played in Hungary, Holland, Spain and with four MLS clubs, finishing his career in 2002 with the Kansas City Wizards.
Three key players
Omar Bravo, who scored twice in Mexico's victory over Iran at the 2006 World Cup, begins his MLS career against a familiar foe, in one regard. The 31-year-old forward spent most of his career in Mexico with Guadalajara, the original Chivas and our Goats' sister club.
Midfield leader Davy Arnaud combines tremendous energy with good ideas and a shot that can make things happen, but he's prone to wear out before the finish
A partial list of 32-year-old Brazilian central defender Julio Cesar's previous employers: Real Madrid, AC Milan, Benfica, Bolton, Tigres.
There's a bit of a buzz surrounding the rebranded Wizards, who finished 8-5-3 last year but fell well short of a postseason berth for the second straight year. The additions of Julio Cesar and Serbian midfielder Milos Stojcek might be inspired.
“I think we've added some players that are going to help us over the course of a 34-game season,” Vermes said. “I wouldn't say it's all going to happen right away. It's going to take a few games, because some of these guys came to us late in preseason. I do think there are some guys who can help us and be real impact players, not only for our team but in the league.”
The Wizards had their ups and downs in preseason, going 1-2-5 with the lone win against third-tier Arizona Sahuaros at the MLS Desert Cup.
Winger Kei Kamara (Lawndale/Leuzinger HS) played at Cal State Dominguez Hills, just a few hundred yards from the Home Depot Center field. Outside back Chance Myers (Thousand Oaks/Thousand Oaks HS and UCLA) also is a local boy.
Winger Ryan Smith (left knee inflammation) and defender Korede Aiyegbusi are out, defender Michael Harrington (groin strain) and forward Teal Bunbury (dislocated right elbow) are questionable, and defender C.J. Sapong (neck strain) is probable.