Los Angeles Soccer: Chivas USA 2012 Preview
CARSON -- Robin Fraser has bolstered his roster with 12 acquisitions since his first campaign in charge of Chivas USA closed 4½ months ago, adding experience, depth and more than a little talent to a decent base.
Will it translate to success -- and if not now, then when?
That's the biggest question facing the Goats in year two of Fraser's reign, and where they sit come the end of October -- in or out of Major League Soccer's postseason -- will determine whether it has worked.
The playoffs are the goal for Chivas, and anything less will be considered abject failure. Fraser wants more.
“You should try to win it,” he said. “The goal is to win a championship. … I've said so many times: There's no sense in being in a competition if you're not trying to win it. Obviously, at the end of the road, we're all in this trying to win an MLS Cup.”
It's a heady aim for a franchise that has won only one of eight playoff games in its history and never advanced beyond the initial stage, not even when it won the West in 2007. The Goats have missed the postseason the past two years and are still rebuilding since so many important figures departed after 2009.
Fraser took aggressive steps during this offseason and preseason, bolstering a tattered backline with the acquisitions of veteran right back James Riley and Colombian center back John Alexander Valencia, strengthening a deep midfield with, especially, Ecuadoran national-teamers Miller Bolaños and Oswaldo Minda, and improving attacking options up front, with first-round draft pick Casey Townsend, especially, demonstrating the gravitas needed to become a seasoned pro.
The most influential of players from last year -- goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, defenders Heath Pearce and Ante Jazic, midfielders Nick LaBrocca and Alejandro Moreno, star forward Juan Pablo Angel -- have returned, and Fraser and his staff have been able to build on something; camp opened last year less than two weeks after he and top assistant coach Greg Vanney were hired.
On paper, Chivas has a far better side than the one that went 8-14-12 and finished eighth among nine in the Western Conference last year, but it might take a little time before that becomes apparent.
1 Dan Kennedy (Yorba Linda/UC Santa Barbara)
24 Patrick McLain (R, Cal Poly)
28 Tim Melia (Lynn)
3 Heath Pearce (Portland)
4 Rauwshan McKenzie (Michigan State)
5 John Alexander Valencia (Colombia)
7 James Riley (Wake Forest)
13 Ante Jazic (Dalhousie/Canada)
19 Jorge Villafaña (Anaheim)
77 David Junior Lopes (Brazil)
6 Peter Vagenas (Pasadena/UCLA)
8 Oswaldo Minda (Ecuador)
10 Nick LaBrocca (Rutgers)
11 Michael Lahoud (Wake Forest)
15 Alejandro Moreno (UNC Greensboro/Venezuela)
16 Laurent Courtois (France)
17 Miller Bolaños (Ecuador), on loan from LDU Quito (Ecuador)
18 Blair Gavin (Akron)
22 Ryan Smith (England)
21 Ben Zemanski (Akron)
26 Marvin Iraheta (DL/R, Pasadena/El Salvador)
9 Juan Pablo Angel (Colombia)
14 Casey Townsend (R/draft, Maryland)
58 Cesar Romero
NA Tristan Bowen (HGP/Van Nuys), on loan to KSV Roeselare (Belgium)
General manager: Jose Domene
Head coach: Robin Fraser
Assistant coach: Greg Vanney
Assistant coach/reserve-team head coach: Carlos Llamosa
Goalkeeper coach: Daniel Gonzalez
Director of player personnel: Kevin Esparza
Strength and conditioning coach: Jim Liston
DL -- Disabled List
DP -- Designated Player
HGP -- Home Grown Player
R -- Rookie
Note: Local hometowns/colleges and/or foreign designations in parentheses
March 11 vs. Houston, 4 p.m. (Prime Ticket and Galavision)
March 17 vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22)
March 24 at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
April 1 vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22)
April 7 at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22)
April 14 at Toronto, 1:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
April 21 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
April 28 at Colorado, 6 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
May 4 vs. Chicago, 8 p.m. (ESPN Deportes)
May 13 at San Jose, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
May 19 vs. Galaxy (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)
May 23 at New York, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
May 26 vs. Seattle, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
May 29 USOC-Third round TBA
June 5 USOC-Potential fourth round TBA
June 16 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
June 20 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket)
June 23 at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (Galavision)
June 26 USOC-Potential quarterfinal TBA
July 7 vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22)
July 10 USOC-Potential semifinal TBA
July 18 vs. Portland, 1 p.m. (Fox Sports West)
July 21 at Galaxy, 7 p.m. (Prime Ticket and Galavision)
July 28 at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Aug. 7-8 USOC-Potential final TBA
Aug. 12 vs. Galaxy, 8 p.m. (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes)
Aug. 18 at Colorado, 6 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22)
Aug. 25 vs. Seattle, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
Aug. 29 at New England, 6 p.m. (Prime Ticket)
Sept. 2 at San Jose, 6 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
Sept. 8 at Seattle, time TBA (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Sept. 15 vs. San Jose, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
Sept. 19 at Columbus, 4:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket)
Sept. 23 at D.C. United, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
Sept. 29 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Oct. 3 at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56)
Oct. 7 vs. FC Dallas, 4 p.m. (Prime Ticket and Galavision)
Oct. 20 vs. Colorado, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Oct. 28 at FC Dallas, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
Note: MLS playoffs to begin first week of November, with MLS Cup at highest-seeded finalist on Dec. 1; summer friendlies TBA
April 23 vs. Seattle, 11 a.m.
May 14 at San Jose, 11 a.m.
June 8 vs. San Jose, 11 a.m.
June 18 vs. Portland, 11 a.m.
June 25 vs. Vancouver, 11 a.m.
July 10 vs. Galaxy, 11 a.m.
July 23 at Vancouver, 11 a.m.
July 29 at Portland, 2 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Seattle, 11 a.m.
TBA at Galaxy
USOC: U.S. Open Cup
English: Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket, KDOC/Channel 56, NBC Sports Network, ESPN2.
Spanish: KWHY/Channel 22, ESPN Deportes, Galavision
All home games at Home Depot Center (Carson)
MOST IMPORTANT FIGURE
This is a most blue-collar team, and its leaders -- and chief on-field figures -- are hard-working battlers with a bit of skill. Alejandro Moreno (shifting from forward to a holding-midfield role), midfield leader Nick LaBrocca (capable of playing many places, must be on the field) and center back Heath Pearce (solidified a transient backline last year) are the sheriffs.
ALL EYES ARE ON
Juan Pablo Angel stepped in last August after a tumulutous spell with the Galaxy and quickly demonstrated his quality, scoring seven goals in nine games with the club (six of them in four straight games). He has more support up front, with Casey Townsend and Cesar Romero, but hitting double figures for the sixth straight season is a must. MVP Dan Kennedy was a revelation in the nets, but he hasn't looked as sharp this preseason. The Goats need him at his best.
Michael Lahoud has shown off his versatility, for the good (all around midfield) and not so good (a tough spell at right back last year), but he's got his own position now (on the right flank) and is coming off a superb preseason, in which he was dangerous from the wing or when cutting inside. The fourth-year pro could make a breakthrough in 2012.
There are a lot of new and influential faces around, but the Goats' game looks as if it will rotate around Ecuadoran midfielders Miller Bolaños and Oswaldo Minda. They're nothing alike: Minda is a big, strong, smart, athletic, veteran defensive midfielder; Bolaños, a young, impudent, slashing attacker with skill and ideas.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?
You can understand why Robin Fraser and his staff found Maryland striker Casey Townsend so alluring. The No. 5 overall pick in January's MLS SuperDraft fits perfectly into the character of this club: He's all about grit and work ethic, willing to do whatever it takes -- no matter the risks to his heath -- to put the ball in the net.