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Thursday, March 15, 2012
CHIVAS USA: Angel out with head issue?

By Scott French

CARSON -- Juan Pablo Angel might not be available for Chivas USA's game Saturday while he deals with a potential concussion issue.

The Colombian striker, the Goats' biggest name, spent training away from the field Thursday with what head coach Robin Fraser termed “just a little but of precautionary measures with concussion protocol.”

Angel, 36, said he has had problems since hitting heads with Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner during a preseason game two weeks ago in Oregon. He has started both Chivas games since, the preseason finale March 4 against San Jose and last weekend's Major League Soccer opener against Houston.

“It's been bothering me since [the collision] when I head the ball, when I don't [tense] the muscles [in my neck to prepare to head the ball],” Angel said Thursday. “I had a word with the doctor. [Because of the protocol], he said let's take a couple of days and see. I'll take it easy until tomorrow, and then we'll address it from there.”

MLS's concussion protocol, instituted after several players -- including 101-goal scorer Taylor Twellman and former Chivas/Galaxy forward Alecko Eskandarian -- saw their careers shortened by concussions, mandates that a player see a doctor, be symptom-free for a week, then pass cognitive tests. (Chivas defender Jimmy Conrad retired for similar reasons after going through the protocol last season.)

Angel, who said he was “feeling better” on Thursday, has not been diagnosed with a concussion, but he acknowledges he has had symptoms similar to those related to concussions.

If Angel can't play Saturday night against Vancouver at Home Depot Center, rookie Casey Townsend or newcomer Cesar Romero likely will get the call up front. Townsend is a target striker, like Angel; Romero is more versatile and was playing with Chivas' first team in a short training scrimmage Thursday.

OUT BY A NOSE: Alejandro Moreno will miss the game against Vancouver because of a broken nose suffered at the Portland tournament. He had surgery last week, was available but did not play in Sunday's loss to Houston, then broke it again while playing 90 minutes in a reserve-team friendly Monday against the L.A. Blues. He had a second surgery later that day.

“It's been an eventful last 10 days or so, let's put it that way,” said Moreno, a forward-turned-midfielder and one of the Goats' most experienced players and primary leaders. The plan is to “wait and see until next week, when I go to the doctor. Then they'll take the cast off and see how it's progressing.

“The first time, we wanted to get back as soon as possible and really make an effort to get back on the field as quickly as I could. That didn't work, so now we're going with a different approach and make sure that it heals properly.”

Moreno, 32, whose gritty game is largely defined by his willingness to sacrifice his face and body for the good of the team, was hit in the face in the Feb. 27 preseason match against Swedish club AIK in Portland, Ore. He was reinjured after colliding with L.A. Blues midfielder Erlys Garcia as, while wearing a mask, he headed away a Blues corner kick.

“That I've broken it twice in the last week sets us back a little bit, so we'll see [how quickly I come back],” Moreno said. “It's frustrating because, otherwise, I feel pretty good physically and I'm able to move around. But I'm not able to have contact. For those that know the way that I play, having no contact is very difficult for me. …

“Essentially, the way that I play my whole career, it lends itself to contact, and I don't shy away from it, and I'm not about to start now. … What has made me successful in the past is that I'm willing to put myself in situations that allow me to get on the end of things and allow me to physically win tackles or balls in midfield or get on the end of things as a forward and risk it so that I can try to score a goal. I'm not able to do that. It's part of what I like to do, but right now it's being held back.”

WORTH NOTING: Colombian midfielder Jose Manuel Najera, Brazilian winger Alan Souza and Mexican midfielder Pablo Sandoval have left camp. Souza made two game appearances and Najera and Sandoval one apiece during the preseason schedule. … The new trialist is midfielder Kevin Huezo (Santa Ana/Segerstrom HS), an Irvine Strikers product who has played for Pachuca's under-20 team and was in camp during preseason with Colorado. He has experience with the U.S. under-20 national team. … Huezo gives Chivas five trialists, with Fraser and his staff expected to make roster decisions following Sunday's friendly against UC Riverside. … Michael Lahoud said he is “better,” but Fraser said the winger would be out another couple of weeks because of a hamstring injury. John Alexander Valencia, who missed the opener because of a quadriceps strain, is training fully, but he was in the second-team backline Thursday, with opening-day starters Heath Pearce and Rauwshan McKenzie with the first group. Ryan Smith was on the right wing with the first team. … Chivas announced the signing of goalkeeper Patrick McLain, which was completed last week. ... A source with knowledge of the situation reports that Chivas “may be close to signing a South American player.” The player was described earlier this week as being about two weeks from arrival.