Friday, March 23, 2012
CHIVAS USA: RSL is Goats' model, foe
By Scott French
Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser will face his former team, Real Salt Lake, on Saturday.
Nobody has to tell Robin Fraser how good Real Salt Lake is. He spent three years as chief assistant to Jason Kreis, playing a significant role in the club's rise from doormat to champion and -- before the Galaxy's resurgence -- standard-bearer for Major League Soccer.
It's a model of sorts for what Fraser is trying to build at Chivas USA, a task that's going to take some time but is, as the Goats' head coach puts it, “coming to fruition,” even with back-to-back shutout losses to start the season.
“Every experience is different. Every team is different,” Fraser said. “They have a lot of consistency. They have a number of guys who've been on the team … this is their fifth year, I think. When you have that kind of carryover with good players, then good things happen.”
Fraser is still building his roster, and only goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, left back Ante Jazic, midfielders Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanski, and forward-turned-midfielder Alejandro Moreno have been around longer than the coach, who was hired in January 2011.
Carryover of RSL's sort will take another three or four seasons.
“It's all part of the process of building a team,” Fraser said. “I think any of the successful teams over the years -- look at D.C. United, look at our Galaxy teams [in the league's early years], Houston/San Jose for a while -- these are teams that spent a lot of time together. It's definitely part of the key to enduring success.”
Chivas, however, needs results now, and heads into Saturday night's clash in Sandy, Utah, against Fraser's old team desperate for points and facing long odds.
Chivas has shown little sign of attacking coherency is 1-0 home losses to Houston and Vancouver, and they're without star striker Juan Pablo Angel, who is dealing with concussion issues. RSL, with tremendous talent all over the field, sits atop MLS's Supporters' Shield standings following victories over the Galaxy and New York, the two biggest clubs in the league.
Chivas also figures to be without Moreno (broken nose), although he traveled with the team. Ailing winger Laurent Courtois (calf strain) also traveled, but Gavin (hamstring strain) stayed home. Starting winger Michael Lahoud (hamstring strain) remains sidelined.
The absences impact the Goats' short-term growth, and they could be in trouble if they fall too far behind in a Western Conference in which all nine clubs are expected to battle for playoff posts.
“We're a team that needs a win, period …,” Fraser said. “It's definitely not going to be an easy task, but in this league any team can beat any other team on any given day. The best we can do is prepare the best we can and try to find our opportunities and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Defender Rauwshan McKenzie, who started the first two games as John Alexander Valencia dealt with an injury, arrived on trial during preseason after two years with RSL. He sees similarities in approach.
“We're definitely a possession-oriented team; we like to keep the ball,” McKenzie said. “We've got a lot of technical players and guys that want to win.” And the training sessions are “very similar. I think Robin kind of stole a couple pages out of their book.”
WORTH NOTING: Trialist John Owoeri, a former Nigerian youth international, has been dismissed from camp. He scored three goals and assisted a fourth in Chivas' rout last week against UC Riverside. … Chivas backup left back Jorge Villafaņa is in Nashville, with the U.S. under-23 team, which Sunday faces Canada in its second group match in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers. ... Backup goalkeeper Tim Melia spent the past two seasons with RSL, although he went to NASL teams on loan both years. … Fabian Espindola's next goal will be his 29th at RSL, equaling Robbie Findley's club record. Chivas' all-time goals leader is Ante Razov, with 30. Razov (Long Beach and Fontana/Fontana HS) also is Chicago's goals champion, with 76. … Chivas leads the all-time series, 9-8-5, but is 0-4-1 in the last five meetings. RSL won both encounters last year by 1-0 scorelines. … The Goats, down to nine men, nearly held RSL to a scoreless draw in last year's visit, but Will Johnson's 87th-minute header gave the Lions the points. Playmaker Javier Morales suffered a grisly dislocated ankle on a tackle from behind by fellow Argentine Marcos Mondaini, who is no longer with Chivas. Mondaini was red-carded, as was defender Andrew Boyens following two yellow cards. ... Vancouver's Joe Cannon won MLS's Save of the Week award for leaping tip-over-the-bar stop on Casey Townsend's curling shot to the upper-right corner, Chivas' only true chance last week.
REAL SALT LAKE
Head coach: Jason Kreis
Key players: M Javier Morales, M Kyle Beckerman, D Jamison Olave, G Nick Rimando, F Fabian Espindola, F Alvaro Saborio.
Local guys: Rimando (Montclair/UCLA), D Tony Beltran (Claremont/UCLA), M Luis Gil (Garden Grove), G Kyle Reynish (Valencia/UC Santa Barbara).
Update: The Utahns are atop the Supporters' Shield standings two weeks into the season following a 3-1 comeback win over the Galaxy and last week's 2-0 triumph in their home opener over New York. Espindola has tallied in both games, and Gil, who is quickly evolving into one of MLS's best young playmakers, scored against the Red Bulls. RSL is getting healthier, too: Defender Nat Borchers, who missed the first two games with a quad strain, went 66 minutes in last week's Reserve League match, and Morales and Saborio might be in the starting lineup this week.
Out: F Juan Pablo Angel (head contusion), M Blair Gavin (right hamstring strain), M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear), M Michael Lahoud (right hamstring strain).
Questionable: M Laurent Courtois (left calf strain).
Probable: M Alejandro Moreno (broken nose).
REAL SALT LAKE
Out: F Cody Arnoux (left adductor strain).
Questionable: D Nat Borchers (left quadriceps strain), M Will Johnson (right adductor strain).
Probable: F Alvaro Saborio (right knee internal injury).
Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah), 6 p.m.
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
TV: Prime Ticket (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish, delayed, 7:30 p.m.)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)