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Shorthanded Goats to take on 'Caps

6/1/2011

Now we learn just how deep Chivas USA's roster really is.

The Goats will be missing as many as 11 players, nine of them with reasonable starting experience, when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night at Home Depot Center, as injury, suspension and international duty carves up their roster.

Gone, for sure, are first-choice forwards Alejandro Moreno and Marcos Mondaini, starting midfielders Simon Elliott and Jorge Flores, plus defender Andy Boyens, and that's before figuring in all the long-term injuries that have played havoc with Chivas' depth all season.

"We're definitely stretched," head coach Robin Fraser said Tuesday, "and I think this is the time of year where that happens, [with the CONCACAF] Gold Cup, Copa America, what have you ... international dates. And I think all the teams are going through it, for the most part.

"Yeah, we are going to be stretched on our roster, but thats why we have a roster."

Everyone is going through it, to some degree -- Vancouver is missing three players because of international call-ups -- but the few are feeling the impact quite like the Goats (3-4-4). Moreno is off with Venezuela's national team, Boyens and Elliott are with New Zealand's, and Mondaini and Flores are serving red-card suspensions.

Then there's that six-man injured list, with everyone closer to returning to the field -- and midfielder Paulo Nagamura and defender Michael Lahoud possible for Wednesday's game or, if not, for Saturday's against the Portland Timbers. Midfielder Blair Gavin, forward Tristan Bowen and defender Seth Owusu also are nearing the end of injury layoffs, Fraser said.

Elliott, Mondaini and Flores will be available Saturday. Moreno, who could miss as many as 11 games while with Venezuela's national team in the build up to and during Copa America, South America's nations championship, hopes to be available for the Goats' game June 11 at Houston. Venezuela faces Mexico's U-22 team that day in Las Vegas, and negotiations are ongoing between Chivas and the Venezuelan federation to clear him for the MLS match.

CHANGES IN VANCOUVER: The Whitecaps (1-5-6) on Monday dismissed Icelandic head coach Teitur Thordarson, who had been with the team since 2008, and made director of soccer Tom Soehn, a former head coach with D.C. United, the interim boss.

The 'Caps, in their first season in Major League Soccer, are winless in 11 games since beating Toronto FC in their March 19 opener.

"I think they're better than their record indicates, no question," Fraser said. "And now [with the coaching change] I think they're going to be motivated."

Fraser and Soehn were teammates with the American Professional Soccer League powerhouse Colorado Foxes just before MLS's birth, and Chivas' coach thinks his old friend will "get results."

"I know Tommy well, and they're going to come out battling," Fraser said. "That is the way Tommy is. That's the way he was as a player, that's the way he is as a coach. ... And if they're coming out and battling, they're going to get results."

Fraser acknowledged he was surprised by Thordarson's firing -- "Who really thinks anyone was going to get fired at this point?" he said -- and that he thinks "over time" the Whitecaps will evolve into a different team under Soehn.

"I know he's a no-nonsense, blue-collar kind of guy ... [and his team will] be extremely blue-collar, extremely hard-working, never-say-die, fight 'til the very, very end, and organized defensively, for sure."

MISSING: Definitely out: Boyens, Elliott, Moreno, Mondaini, Flores and defender Jimmy Conrad (returning from concussion). Gavin (hamstring strain), like Conrad, officially is "doubtful." The others -- Lahoud (returning from concussion), Nagamura (calf strain), Bowen (sprained ankle) and Owusu (torn meniscus) -- are "probable."

WORTH NOTING: The first meeting, April 16 in Vancouver, was a scoreless draw. ... Goalkeeper coach Mike Salmon also was dismissed Monday by the Whitecaps. ... Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber told The Province that the decision to can Thordarson "shows ambition, and we're not fulfilling the ambitions we wanted to at this time." ... Thordarson, to The Vancouver Sun: "This game isn't fair, this game is never fair. That is just how it is. These things happen all the time but I just thought this time we would be getting a little more time." ... Chicago (1-4-6) also fired its head coach, dumping Carlos de los Cobos and giving technical director Frank Klopas, a former U.S. national-teamer, the interim post. ... Francisco Mendoza needs four appearances to match former Chivas captain Jonathan Bornstein's club record of 123. Mendoza held the record at 111 when he departed after the 2008 season, enabling Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan (114) to surpass his total. ... The Whitecaps were 30 minutes from a CONCACAF Champions League berth last week when horrid weather conditions forced the second leg of its Canadian Championship final in Toronto to be abandoned. Vancouver led, 1-0, but the game will be played from scratch July 2.

THE OPPONENT

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Head coach

  • Soehn, 45, takes the reins of his second MLS club following Thordarson's dismissal; he was in charge at D.C. United in 2007-09, going 55-48-1, winning the Supporters' Shield in his first season and the U.S. Open Cup in 2008. Soehn was a gritty defender/midfielder in the outdoor and indoor games, wrapping up his playing career with four MLS seasons in Dallas and his native Chicago, before serving as an assistant coach with the Fire in 2001-02 and D.C. in 2003-06.

Three key players

  • At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Frenchman Eric Hassli, 29, is a giant in soccer terms, with good ball skill, a nose for the net and a team-best four goals.

  • Brazilian forward Camilo, 23, is the yin to Hassli's yang, a slippery ball wizard who creates and finishes.

  • Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento, 26, contributed five assists in his first five MLS games while playing out of position, on the wing. A move to the middle could increase his influence.

Current form/prospects

  • The Whitecaps' form during their winless skid has been most erratic but rarely awful. Soehn is expected to shift to more possession-style soccer while clamping things off at the back. Vancouver, which sits in the Western Conference cellar, has the makings of a very fine attack, but they've scored no more than one goal in their past eight league matches. At least early defensive troubles have subsided.

Local connections

  • Veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas is from Pasadena, played at St. Francis High School and UCLA, and played nine seasons with the Galaxy, captaining L.A. to the 2005 MLS Cup title. ... Midfielder John Thorrington grew up in Palos Verdes Estates and played at The Chadwick School before heading to Manchester United at 17. ... Forward Atiba Harris was a Chivas USA starter in 2008. ... Midfielder/defender Kevin Harmse was with the Galaxy in 2007 and briefly with Chivas in 2009. ... No. 2 goalkeeper Joe Cannon was the Galaxy's starter in 2007. ... Rookie defender Michael Boxall played at UC Santa Barbara.

Missing

  • Thorrington (calf strain) and Harris (torn meniscus) are out with injuries, and Boxall (New Zealand) and midfielders Terry Dunfield (Canada) and Nizar Khalfan (Tanzania) are away on international duty. Defender Jonathan Leathers is doubtful with a bruised calf, and forward Long Tan is probable with a bruised foot.

THE GAME

At Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. PT

TV: Fox Sports West

Radio: W Radio (XEWW-AM/690, Spanish)

Referee: Ricardo Salazar