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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
CHIVAS USA: End of a worthwhile trip

By Scott French

Chivas USA makes its final stop Wednesday on a five-game string of away matches, facing the Portland Timbers in front of their rabid fan base, before returning to Home Depot Center this weekend a very different team from the one that last played there a month ago. 

Nimble acquisitions, improving health and chemistry and just rewards in difficult conditions have over a series of treks -- to Dallas, Foxborough, Seattle, Denver and now Portland -- taken the Goats to the next step in their development under first-year coach Robin Fraser

Chivas is gutting out results on the road, following a victory at New England with draws at Seattle (0-0) and last week at Colorado (2-2), a potential sign-post match if the Goats do go on to the postseason and accomplish anything there. 

A knack for giving away leads cost Chivas points early in the campaign, but the Rojiblancos rallied twice -- through newcomers Juan Pablo Angel and Laurent Courtois -- in a gutsy display against the reigning MLS Cup champion way up in the Rockies. 

“It was great character there to win against the defending champs at their place,” said Fraser, who by misidentifying the draw as a victory confirms the importance of the result. 

That's what he says he's been happiest with on the road “trip”: “The growth of character.” 

“I think we've been in some difficult situations and difficult circumstances,” he said, “and we see the team continuing to grow and deal with difficult circumstances better than they have, really, all year.” 

The Goats are starting to claim points when they're not at their best, a very good thing. Seattle should have beaten Chivas by two goals, at least; Colorado would have won if not for Courtois' 86th-minute finish from Michael Lahoud's superb run. 

Rather than three losses in four games, Chivas has just one, with 115-degree heat index in North Texas. 

“Against Colorado, I don't think we played well in the first half, and I thought we played better in the second half ...,” Fraser said. “In Seattle, especially, I thought there were moments where we played exceptionally well; however, we weren't dangerous enough. ... I wouldn't say it's that we're not playing well. We play well in spurts. We just need to play well for longer spurts and be more consistent throughout the game.” 

Are the spurts getting longer? 

“I think the spurts are becoming better at times and certainly longer at times,” he said, “and it's a matter of putting it all together.” 

WORTH NOTING: Marcos Mondaini's 70th-minute goal carried Chivas to a 1-0 win in the teams' first meeting, June 4 at Home Depot Center. ... Portland traded winger Jeremy Hall to FC Dallas on Friday for midfielder Eric Alexander, who started 16 games for the Hoops. ... Nick LaBrocca will be suspended with his next yellow card. Portland's Rodney Wallace is in the same situation. ... The Timbers have surrendered two or more goals in 13 of 25 games. Chivas has given up one or none in 17 of 25. 

MISSING: Rookie right back Zarek Valentin is out with a quad strain sustained early in Saturday's draw at Colorado. Forward Justin Braun, out last weekend with an abdominal strain, is ready to go. 

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Three key players 

Current form/prospects 

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At Jeld-Wen Field (Portland, Ore.), 8 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic