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Saturday, September 24, 2011
CHIVAS USA: Last-ditch efforts

By Scott French

Chivas USA can remain alive in the postseason hunt with a victory Saturday night over Toronto FC, a harder proposition than perhaps it ought to be.

The Goats have never lost to the Canadians at Home Depot Center, but they're long, hard fade down the stretch offers only so much hope. They haven't won in seven games, falling from playoff contender to pretender, and no victories in their final four games would leave them one win short of last year's total.

Last year, you might remember, was disastrous, and Chivas cleaned house afterward, in the front office, on the coaching staff and on the field.

There can be few qualms with the work head coach Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney have done in building a new culture for the club -- the Goats (7-12-11) are on the right path, but patience is required -- but questions about the viability of the front office are growing.

Toronto FC (6-12-12) seems a mirror organization, except the Reds have never gotten things right -- and Chivas was a force in MLS during Bob Bradley's and Preki's tenures as head coach.

That seems to be slowly changing. The Reds have lost just once in their last seven games, and the imprint of Designated Players Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, both acquired at the end of June, has been massive.

If Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the club's owner, shows more patience with Dutch coach Aron Winter than it did with his predecessors -- and provides the resources necessary, which it seems to be doing -- Toronto could be competing for the postseason next season.

Right now, both clubs are in the race, but only barely. Either side could be eliminated with a defeat and results elsewhere, and it's really just a matter of time. Miracles can happen, and that's what the Goats and Reds need.
WORTH NOTING: Chivas leads the all-time series, 6-2-1, and are 4-0-0 at HDC, outscoring the Reds, 9-1. ... The first meeting this season, on April 2 in Toronto, was a 1-1 draw. Alejandro Moreno scored in the second minute, but Alan Gordon -- playing his first game against the team that traded him (for Nick LaBrocca) during preseason -- netted an equalizer toward the end of the first half. Gordon has since been traded to San Jose. ... Michael Lahoud, Zarek Valentin and Ben Zemanski face suspensions with their next yellow cards. ... TFC has conceded a league-worst 52 goals in 30 games.

MISSING: Central midfielder Paulo Nagamura (broken foot) is out. ... Defender Heath Pearce (hamstring tear) is probable after making his return in the midweek game.


THE OPPONENT

TORONTO FC
Head coach
Winter, brought in over the offseason to rebuild the hapless Reds, was a top central midfielder for the Dutch national team (84 caps, two World Cups, three European Championships) and for clubs in Holland (Ajax Amsterdam, Sparta Rotterdam) and in Italy (Lazio, Inter Milan). He joined Toronto FC after serving as an assistant coach at Ajax.

Three key players

Current form/prospects

Local connections

Missing

THE GAME

At Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
TV:
KWHY/Channel 22 and KDOC/Channel 56
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)
Referee: Kevin Stott