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Chivas USA is going through its most difficult stretch of the season, with three straight losses and five matches without a win when victories are absolutely necessary to stay in the playoff race.
And the Goats (7-11-10), who have been beaten down by defensive liabilities and possession breakdowns, heads into Saturday afternoon's Major League Soccer game at Chicago missing another center back -- and considering a change in how they go about things.
David Junior Lopes is out after picking up a questionable red card in last week's loss to D.C. United, and with backline leader Heath Pearce out with a hamstring injury (and previous backline leader Jimmy Conrad retired after a concussion), there's not much depth in central defense.
Pearce, officially, is “questionable,” but he's targeting next Saturday's game -- at home against Toronto FC -- for his return. Chivas plays Wednesday at D.C. United.
Figure Andrew Boyens to team with Michael Umaņa in the middle, with Chivas possibly taking a more conservative tack with its possession plan.
“We’ve got Andy Boyens, who has been training hard, and it’s an opportunity,” said midfielder Simon Elliott. “Heath’s on the mend -- he’ll be back soon -- but you have to look at it as an opportunity for someone to be raising their hand and saying, 'I deserve to play every week.' It’s what-are-you-preparing-to-do time.”
It has to happen now. The Goats have six games remaining, and they're only three points out of a playoff spot -- but are sixth of seven teams fighting for three berths (and separated by six points). And they're in the worst form of the seven.
“We have to win games,” Elliott said. “I think by and large the powers that be, the staff, the strength and conditioning guys, they get it right. From what I can tell, we focus on the right things. And as players, we have to put out hand up. We have to execute. We can't just talk about it, we have to go out and do it.”
Said head coach Robin Fraser: “We have to be honest with our assessments, we gave to be honest in our analysis of the choices we make with the ball, the choices we make when new don't have the ball, and we have to get better from it. This is a results-oriented business. It really doesn't matter if we play well. ... End of the day, we're not getting pts. If we're not getting points, it's not good enough.”
WORTH NOTING: Chivas has not yet announced that midfielder Francisco Mendoza was released although it occurred 10 days ago. Said general manager Jose Domene in a text message: “And we will not announce it.” ... Chicago on Wednesday waived injured midfielder Marko Maric, then lost to Guadalajara, 1-0, in a friendly. ... Chicago leads the all-time series, 6-4-3, and is 3-2-1 in home meetings. ... This season's first meeting, on July 2, ended 1-1, with Nick La Brocca scoring at the start of the second half to answer Dominic Oduro's first-half goal.
MISSING: Lopes is suspended for last week's red card. ... Central midfielder Paulo Nagamura (broken foot) is out, but defender Pearce (hamstring tear) has been upgraded to questionable.
Three key players
Defender Dan Gargan is serving a yellow-card suspension. ... Midfielders Mike Banner (sprained ankle) and Gabriel Ferrrari (torn ACL) and defender Steven Kinney (abdominal strain) are out. ... Midfielder Corben Bone (knee strain) is doubtful. ... Midfielder Sebastian Grazzini (tight hamstring) and forward forward Dominic Oduro (bruised ankle) are questionable.
At Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.) 1 p.m. PT
TV: Telefutura (KFTR/Channel 46) and KDOC/Channel 56
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez