Los Angeles Soccer: Deportivo Quito
CARSON -- Oswaldo Minda grew into a commanding central midfielder while with Deportivo Quito, where he won three Ecuadoran titles in four years before signing with Chivas USA in December.
His new club, of course, is strongly affiliated with the original Chivas -- Club Deportivo Guadalajara. The Goats are, more or less, under their big brother's umbrella.
So when Deportivo Quito plays Tuesday night at Guadalajara in a Copa Libertadores group opener, who is Minda cheering for?
“Oh, you're putting me on the spot here ...,” he said through a translator. “It's going to be a very dynamic game.
“Quito's bringing in a lot of young players. They're a team that's very dynamic, and this is a group that's been together for four or five seasons. I saw [Guadalajara] play against Morelia [on Saturday]. It's a team that unfortunately has a lot of problems -- they're very young, primarily. As time goes by, they'll bring it back. They'll be all right.”
Guadalajara is struggling -- winless in its first five matches in the Mexican Primera Division's second-half Clausura championship after posting the best regular-season record in the fall Apertura. Deportivo, with Minda, just won the Ecuadoran title, and it's making its fourth straight trip to South America's club championship (and seeking its first knockout-stage berth since 1989).
Minda says he'll be watching (Fox Deportes, 6 p.m.) with Ecuadoran friends, and that he hopes it's “a good show for everybody ... and that the best team wins.”
James Riley has been a Goat for little more than a week, and he's fully embracing his newest adventure, as unexpected as it might be.
The veteran right back, acquired from the Seattle Sounders through Montreal and Major League Soccer's expansion draft, says he can offer something good to Robin Fraser's project at Chivas USA and is looking forward to the opportunity to do so.
He's just in no rush to get down to Southern California quite yet.
“I'm not too anxious,” Riley told ESPN Los Angeles this week from his Seattle home. “I'm just relaxing after a long season.”
The new one begins in little more than six weeks, with Fraser slated to gather his troops together Jan. 16, and Riley, a seven-year MLS veteran and one of the league's best outside backs, figures to provide a huge boost for a team looking to return to the postseason after two misses.
That's the message Fraser had for Riley, whom Montreal selected in the expansion draft so it could send him (and allocation money) to Chivas for forward Justin Braun and midfielder Gerson Mayen.
“He called me right after the draft,” Riley said. “He said he likes the way I play both sides of the game, he likes the grit, the mentality I've brought over seven years. He wants players who can focus over 90 minutes, and I kind of deciphered that as winning the right moments.
“I break down different aspects, and it's guys able to win duels -- a key tackle, simple positioning, being able to cover teammates, being able to anticipate turnovers and breaks, and that's when we have the ball. It's definitely a thing the team works on together, something you start on preseason day one: winning duels in critical moments.”
That's what the Goats need after mental lapses played a huge part in defensive struggles that derailed their 2011 campaign.
Riley didn't expect to join Chivas USA, but he knew he was headed somewhere. The depth of talent in Seattle's roster meant some very good players, some starters, were going to be exposed in the expansion draft, and the former Wake Forest standout has been through this before.