Los Angeles Soccer: Cesar Zamora

Nick LaBrocca has big goals for Chivas USA

March, 16, 2011
The newest Goat arrives with great expectations, and not just for this year.

Nick LaBrocca, a midfielder Chivas USA acquired Friday in a trade with Toronto FC, says his new club is bound for something brilliant.

"We want to kind of make ourselves a powerhouse of the league," he said Wednesday, three days before Chivas opens its 2011 campaign against Sporting Club Kansas City at Home Depot Center. "It's probably not going to happen right away, but it's a matter of winning games and moving in the right direction and gaving it click all at the right time."

LaBrocca, 26, started 80 games the past three years, with Colorado in 2008-09 and Toronto FC last year, and he arrives to fill a need in the Goats' injury-challenged midfield. Four potential midfield starters are injured -- Blair Gavin (hamstring), Michael Lahoud (knee laceration), Paulo Nagamura (calf) and Simon Elliott (knee) -- and only Elliott appears to be a possibility for Saturday's Major League Soccer opener.

Gavin, Lahoud and Elliott are training, and Nagamura says he hopes to begin working with the ball again next week.

LaBrocca, who joined the team in suburban Dallas and played 90 minutes in Saturday night's loss to FC Dallas in the Goats' final preseason game, is a gutty central midfielder who can create.

"I can play outside [on the wing], but I feel like I do my best work in the middle, whether it be defense or offense or as a linking midfielder," LaBrocca said. Asked what he brings to a team, he replied: "A little bit of everything. I feel I can defend, win balls, keep the ball, and, at the same time, I can also be creative and spring into the attack."

LaBrocca had been watching Chivas from afar and says there's a lot of chatter about the team around MLS.

"Everybody talks," he said. "Everybody talks about everybody, so everybody sees and keeps [track of] what everybody's doing, and there's a nice, little buzz about Chivas and the direction they're moving in. ... By the sounds of it, they're doing it right, and the system and what they're trying to build and their philosophy all sound right on point."

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Chivas USA: No wrong move at right back

February, 19, 2011
The fight most anticipated as Chivas USA kicked off preseason preparations last month -- rookie Zarek Valentin vs. veteran Mariano Trujillo, with the job at right back awaiting the winner -- is a battle no more. Neither has won. Nor lost.

Serious defensive depth, in great contrast to last year, has left new coach Robin Fraser a lot of options, and when the Goats trot onto Home Depot Center's field March 19 against Sporting Kansas City, it could be new arrival Heath Pearce or trialist Jimmy Asprilla on the right flank. Or Valentin.

That's some of what Fraser is considering after the Goats' return from Arizona, where they played three scrimmages in a week-long camp considered productive despite injuries that kept two veteran midfielders -- Paulo Nagamura and Simon Elliott -- and top returning scorer Justin Braun out of action.

"I think Arizona was about solidifying some team concepts, and I think in a lot of ways they improved," Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles on Saturday, after the team's return to L.A. "Things they did well prior to Arizona, they did better. Now it's a matter of being consistent at it."

Fraser says he is beginning to get a feel for a starting XI, that he and his staff are "starting to narrow things down, but nothing is etched in stone." He isn't sure how Valentin or Trujillo (or Pearce and Asprilla) fit in, but he's not unhappy with what each brings to the team.

Valentin, taken with the fourth overall pick in last month's draft, has played on the right and at center back during camp. Pearce, acquired Tuesday in a trade from FC Dallas, can play at right back or left back -- or in midfield. Asprilla is a veteran right back, with more than a decade of experience in his native Colombia, Peru and Venezuela.

"Everything is up for grabs at the moment," Fraser said of Valentin. "He's a good young player who can play outside and inside, so [starting in the middle] is a possibility, sure."

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Chivas leaves Arizona with an injury

February, 18, 2011
Not the best way Chivas USA's week in Arizona could have gone, with certain starter Blair Gavin hobbling off a little before halftime of Friday's 1-0 victory over Vancouver in Casa Grande.

No word yet on what Gavin hurt nor how serious it is, but the second-year midfielder missed the last two months of last season because of a hamstring injury that he twice re-tweaked.

Gavin was the primary attacking conduit for the Goats (3-2-0), who had the better of play in their third Arizona match but not the best chances. Jesus Padilla got the goal in the 89th minute, streaking between Whitecaps central defenders Greg Janicki and Ryan O'Leary for a ball over the top from Michael Umaņa, then slotting past goalkeeper Jay Nolly.

Mariano Trujillo missed a penalty kick after Jeb Brovsky fouled Alan Gordon at the start of the second half, firing wide left.

Heath Pearce made his Chivas debut, seeing little of the ball in the game's first half-hour.

“I think every team comes out and has, like, five or six goals they have written on the board: 'This is what we want to accomplish today,' ” Chivas defender Jimmy Conrad said. “Today maybe we accomplished four of those six things.”

Starting goalkeeper Zach Thornton made a huge save against Vancouver trialist Russell Teibert in the 54th minute, and backup Sergio Arias knocked aside Brazilian trialist Camilo's first shot on a breakaway in the 76th; Camilo's rebound went wide.

MOVING AROUND: Gordon started in central midfield, next to Gavin and in front of Michael Lahoud, in the 4-1-4-1 formation head coach Robin Fraser likes. Trujillo, likely out at right back with Pearce and rookie Zarek Valentin on the scene, got another look in midfield, this time on the left flank. He might fit in better here than on the backline.

Valentin started in the middle, and, near as we can tell, moved to right back when Umaņa came on for Pearce. Tristan Bowen returned to action, playing the final 23 minutes, and trialists Jimmy Asprilla and Guillermo Torres saw second-half action.

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