Los Angeles Soccer: Peter Vagenas
CARSON -- Chivas USA has survived stiff tests from two lower-division teams to reach the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals for just the second time, and they know that's not about to change.
The Charlotte Eagles, the Goats' foe in Tuesday night's final-eight showdown at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium, have an air of destiny about them -- and a belief, tested and proved, they can handle whatever a Major League Soccer team throws at them.
The third-division club has shown it already, winning its first three matches in the 99th edition of America's longest-running soccer tournament on the road, in Texas, the last two against higher-division teams. The defining result: 2-0 over FC Dallas, the MLS club.
“We feel like we deserve to be here, because we've really put some good games together,” said Charlotte head coach Mark Steffens, whose team also beat second-tier San Antonio Scorpions in the fourth round. “Now if we added all of our play the whole season, I'd say, no, we don't deserve to be here. But the way we've played the second half of the season, it hasn't been a surprise winning a few big games.”
The Eagles, who are affiliated with Christian group Missionary Athletes International and, Steffens says, consider their religious mission more important than winning trophies, are ninth in the 11-team USL Pro with a 3-8-2 record (and a game at home Thursday against the L.A. Blues). They're 6-4-1, including the Open Cup wins, since the end of April, and the losses have come to the league's Nos. 1 and 3 teams and to longtime rival Richmond Kickers, a result they answered in a 4-1 romp a week and a half ago.
“Our turnaround has been defensively,” Steffens said. “So we're not going to do anything different than we've done [during a 4-2-1 run] the last six weeks. We're just working on defending and defending as a unit and getting behind the ball, so that's what we're going to do. If we can counter and get one [goal], it's always good to get ahead.”
Chivas, which made it to the semifinals two years ago, understands well Charlotte's approach. The Goats have had to battle to get past amateur powerhouse Ventura County Fusion in the third round, then needed a Juan Pablo Angel penalty kick in stoppage to beat second-tier Carolina RailHawks three weeks ago.
“In some respect, these games are harder than MLS games because you're playing guys who are salivating at the mouth, and that's always difficult,” said Chivas midfielder Peter Vagenas, who has won four Open Cups, twice with the Galaxy and twice with three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders. “You're playing teams that are desperate and have nothing to lose, and that's always difficult. ...
“By no means are we taking it lightly. The first two games were, quote-unquote, lesser opponents, and at some point they gave us everything we could handle, and we expect more of the same. We have to make sure that we match [their] intensity, and if we match [their] intensity -- this is no disrespect to them -- but certainly our soccer will prevail.”
Chivas USA should have gotten more from its early dominance in Tuesday's night's U.S. Open Cup clash, but that's to be expected. The Goats have a knack for not taking advantage of their chances -- or not creating chances from their possession.
They got one goal, a beautiful header from Juan Agudelo, and then ran into some fortune at the finish, and so they'll play on into the quarterfinals of the 99-year-old knockout tournament, and do so at home.
Juan Pablo Angel converted a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage to deliver a 2-1 third-round triumph over the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C. The Goats advance to a June 26 final-eight matchup with the Charlotte Eagles, a third-tier side from the USL Pro that beat the second-division San Antonio Scorpions, 2-1, in overtime.
Chivas' victory was neither simple nor particularly impressive, at least not after the break.
“I thought we started well,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “We created quite a few chances, were able to put them on their heels. We probably didn't do well enough with our opportunities early on. ... We came out the second half and didn't put together a whole lot, but real credit to the group for coming out with a lot of resiliency after their goal.”
The Goats looked good in the first half, moving the ball swiftly through Peter Vagenas in midfield and feeding off a sensational first half-hour, especially, from Agudelo. The big teenager's movement flummoxed the RailHawks, and his strength overpowered them.
He generated several opportunities -- the best: setting up Laurent Courtois to fire just over the crossbar in the 16th minute, firing to force a tough save by former FC Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse a minute later, nodding a cross that Burse somehow kept out in the 25th -- and should have scored in the 18th, when he delayed his shot and the opening disappeared.
Agudelo tallied in the 31st from a Courtois cross with a sharp, glancing header from the edge of the 6-yard box across the goalmouth and into the right-post netting.
“He was finding a lot of good spaces,” Fraser said. “He was very, very difficult for them to deal with, running in behind, holding off guys, running at guys. That activity was very important for us.”
As much as the Ventura County Fusion want to beat Chivas USA in their U.S. Open Cup clash, impressing their guest might be more important.
A berth in the fourth round of America's oldest soccer competition, possibly against the Galaxy, awaits the winner of Tuesday night's showdown at Ventura College, but the Fusion's stars are looking for something more.
A strong showing against Major League Soccer competition could mean opportunities to play in the top league, perhaps for Chivas, and the Fusion's top players -- many of them with pro experience -- are looking to show what they can do.
“Not just for me, but for all the guys playing PDL,” Rodrigo Lopez, the former Chivas/Portland Timbers midfielder who runs the Fusion's attack, told ESPN Los Angeles after Ventura's second-round upset last week over the L.A. Blues. “I think in our situation, it's a good opportunity to show something and to get looked at. Not just to win and keep going -- that's our main goal -- but a lot of guys, that's the way to the main teams, to the MLS teams.”
Lopez (Santa Barbara/Santa Barbara HS) has the most extensive MLS experience among the Fusion -- he spent two seasons with the Goats, was with Portland last year and in March played for Chivas in a reserve friendly-- but it's a roster filled with prospects.
Holding midfielder Daniel Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS), a supplemental draft pick, and winger Kennedy Chongo (Biola University) spent preseason with the Goats. Center back Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS and UC Santa Barbara) was a Seattle Sounders draft pick; his older brother, Chris, is a D.C. United star.
Travis Bowen (Van Nuys/Chatsworth HS), Chivas forward Tristan Bowen's older brother, has been pursuing the pro game around the world. He's coming off a hat trick in the Fusion's Premier Development League victory Saturday over La Mirada's Southern California Seahorses.
“He deserves it more than anybody ...,” said Tristan Bowen, who can't play in the game -- his loan deal to Belgium doesn't officially end until the summer transfer window opens June 27 -- but will be there to watch. “The only reason I started playing was because of him. He wandered off after school one day into a playground, and he was playing soccer, and it just kind of stuck. I wasn't very good. He was always better than me, but sometime around 12 or 13 I started scoring a lot of goals.”
Travis, 22, is “talking a little bit already” about the game, but Tristan, 21, has so far declined to respond. “I don't want him to do bad,” Tristan said, “but I'm in a weird position, you know? ... That would be nice if it's like a 4-3 game where Chivas wins and Travis scores another hat trick. That's an ideal world.”
The Fusion went unbeaten against MLS clubs during preseason, with a 1-0 win over Chivas and scoreless draws with Houston and Chicago.
Juan Agudelo scored his first goal with Chivas, and it might have stood up for a full three points had John Alexander Valencia not whiffed on a ball sent into the Goats' goalmouth just four minutes later. That's three times this season, and twice this week, they've taken a lead and given it right back.
That's on the list of things that still need to be corrected, and if it's a long list, it's getting shorter all the time.
“We would have liked to close the week with three points tonight. I think that goes without saying,” captain Alejandro Moreno said. “Listen, we had an emotional game against the Galaxy last week, we go to New York, a long trip, and get a [tie] there in a very physical and demanding game, and we were able to put together a decent performance tonight. In the end, I think we'll take whatever we got out of this week, but most of all, I think we'll take the fact that we seem to be taking steps forward, the way we're playing. There's more consistency to what we're trying to do on the field.”
Chivas had most of the ball, with 61 percent possession, but created only so many chances -- a recurring theme -- but they put away the best of the lot, maybe their best sequence all season, just 12 minutes into the second half.
Moreno played a ball back to Peter Vagenas, who sent it to James Riley -- outstanding all game, our choice as man of the match -- on the right flank. Riley had plenty of time to look up and pick out Agudelo, who got behind Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to head the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
CARSON -- Things always are a little more intense around Home Depot Center when the SuperClasico nears, but given all that's occurred this week -- on both sides -- Saturday night's showdown might provide a respite from all the madness. Imagine that.
Ninety minutes on a patch of green, no matter how heated the atmosphere, has to be simpler than everything the Galaxy and Chivas USA are going through, what with middling form, poor results, blockbuster trades, White House visits, international call-ups and the biggest star in town's jaunts across Europe carrying a flame.
It has made for hectic preparations for a match that, rivalry aside, is vital for both teams. The Galaxy are 3-5-2, have already matched last year's loss total and are looking to end a four-game winless streak while buoyed by their performance of the second half of last week's 1-1 tie at Montreal.
Chivas is 3-6-1, has scored just six goals in 10 games, given away five points by conceding end-of-game goals, and is 0-5-0 in home matches with just one goal, on a penalty kick. The Goats are the home team for the first of three meetings this season.
“It's a little different than in some years past, because we're both struggling a little bit,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan noted. “So there's probably added meaning in that way, because we both need the points.”
L.A., a preseason favorite to repeat as champion, has only 11 points, 15 behind Western Conference (and Supporters' Shield) leader Real Salt Lake and 11 out of third place. Chivas is only a point behind, but it's also only a point out of the Western cellar.
“It's an important game in a number of ways,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “Both teams are definitely looking for points. It's the rivalry, it's where we are in the table. There's a lot riding on this game.”
Fraser and the Chivas technical staff has been working overtime this week, engineering a pair of trades that, together, offer a major statement of purpose. They brought in 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, the most prized young player in America, and then to replace defender Heath Pearce -- who went to New York for Agudelo -- they acquired veteran center back Danny Califf from Philadelphia (for winger Michael Lahoud). It appears to be a move forward up front and in the back.
It will be the first Clasico for Califf, who spent his first five seasons with the Galaxy but was gone before Chivas debuted. First Clasico on the Goats side for his former L.A. teammate, former Galaxy captain Peter Vagenas, too.
“I peaked my head in [the Galaxy locker room] today and told them I'm excited,” said Vagenas, who signed with Chivas during preseason. “This is obviously a special game for me. I've never hidden my emotion for the [Galaxy] and everything that goes on there, but nobody wants to beat the Galaxy more than I do Saturday night.”
If Chivas pulls it out, there will be blame to go around.
CARSON -- The Galaxy and Chivas USA renew their SuperClasico rivalry Saturday night at Home Depot Center, so what better time to weigh in on the best rivalries in soccer -- in MLS and around the world.
We asked a handful of players and coaches with both teams their thoughts on what matchups are the real Clasicos. Here's what they said.
- BEST WORLD RIVALRY
What's the best?
Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy: “The Real Madrid-Barįa match has been pretty special the past few years. You don't want it to get diluted, because they play each other 12 times a year. Now that Manchester City is having their way in the English Premier League, them with Manchester City is pretty special. And I always like watching Tim Howard and Everton play against Liverpool.”
Galaxy midfielder Juninho: “Brazil-Argentina.”
Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel: “Boca-River.”
Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza: “There's so many out there, man. Barcelona-Real is a pretty good one, I think. I think that one's got to be the top one.”
Chivas defender Ante Jazic: “Barįa-Real.”
Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan: “Barcelona-Madrid.”
Chivas defender James Riley: “Ooh, that's a tough one. I think Celtic-Rangers has the best history, and Boca-River Plate. I would go with Celtic-Rangers.”
CARSON -- The Danny Califf trade we've been hearing about the last few days finally came down Thursday, but the big news was that it wasn't the big news.
Chivas USA made two deals, and by far the sexier is rising U.S. national team star Juan Agudelo's acquisition from the New York Red Bulls, a move the Goats have pursued for some time and for which they had to give up plenty.
Off to New York is defender Heath Pearce, a natural left back converted to center back by Chivas, along with allocation money, “future considerations” (almost certainly a percentage of Agudelo's future transfer fee) and, according to the New York Post, an agreement to pay part of Pearce's salary this season.
To replace Pearce, Chivas sent fourth-year winger Michael Lahoud, among the Goats' fastest, smartest and most versatile players, to Philadelphia for Califf, a deal that's been tracked since Union manager Peter Nowak mentioned it Sunday, to Chivas' consternation.
Agudelo and Califf are expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Thursday night, train with their teammates for the first time Friday morning, and be available for Saturday night's SuperClasico against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center.
The Colombian-born Agudelo, just 19, has superstar potential. He's big, strong, skilled, with savvy and insight well beyond his years, and his initial success with the U.S. national team -- he scored in his debut a week before his 18th birthday and has looked quite at home against older, more experienced competition -- has him facing heavy expectations from soccer fans across the country and around the world.
Chivas head coach Robin Fraser, looking for something different after his team scored just six goals in a 3-6-1 start to the season, looked to deflect those expectations after signing off on the trade Thursday morning.
“For us to improve our place in the standings, it's about everybody continuing to improve,” he said, “and certainly [Agudelo and Califf] come in and we incorporate everyone and we figure out what's best for the team to go forward. I don't feel it's the type of situation where Juan is being brought in here to save the day. Juan is a good player, and we look forward to seeing him grow and develop, but the onus is still on the team. We have a lot to do as a team.”
Chivas loses one of its most important players in Pearce, an MLS All-Star last year with national team experience, and a player seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough in Lahoud, who was set to start on the right flank before a hamstring injury two days before the Major League Soccer opener sidelined him for nearly two months.
Jose Erik Correa made the most of his first start, but Chivas USA couldn't hold onto to its advantage at the finish, settling for a draw in game they should have won even if they didn't really deserve to.
Correa scored with a simple but tremendous touch in the fourth minute, and the Goats defended with everything they had the rest of the way, coming within two minutes plus stoppage of their fourth road victory of the season before Alan Gordon's header gave the San Jose Earthquakes a 1-1 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.
It's the sixth goal, of the dozen the Goats (3-6-1, 10 points) have conceded in 10 games, to come after the 80th minute. It's the first that turned a win into a tie, although twice would-be draws became losses on stoppage-time strikes.
“At the end of the day, you take every point you get, because at the end of the year, they're all going to be important,” Chivas head coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “Certainly having lost [three in a row], it was important to come out of this with something.”
Given the onslaught they survived in the second half, the Goats are fortunate to have that point. Dan Kennedy was again superb in the nets, making three huge saves -- on Simon Dawkins in the 28th minute and Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart in the 55th and 74th -- and the men in front of him were organized and committed, terrific if hardly perfect.
“I think if you were to tell us that we were going to come in here and get a point, we would have been happy with that,” said Kennedy, who faced 24 shots (to five by Chivas) and 15 corner kicks. “The team really put in a shift in the second half. Obviously, we were under pressure. They had a lot of service. For me, I think this is something we can build on.”
Gordon, a former Galaxy stalwart who spent time with Chivas in 2010 and most of preseason last year, returned from a hamstring injury to score the equalizer. First-round draft pick Sam Garza, from UC Santa Barbara, delivered the cross from the left flank, and Gordon got behind center back John Alexander Valencia to easily head the ball into the net.
Valencia failed to jump on the play, and Garza had far too much time to prepare his service. As relentless as the Goats were defensively -- Fraser called it “a very resolute effort” -- there were problems. They left San Jose little space to operate, but their marking was sometimes ridiculously poor (Chris Wondolowski and Dawkins were open at the far post for a cross from Lawndale's Rafael Baca in the 18th minute) and struggles to effectively clear the ball helped San Jose maintain constant pressure the final 45 minutes.
San Jose (7-2-2, 23 points) had far more possession -- 62.5 percent, officially, although completed passes (503 to 302 for Chivas) better illustrate the dominance -- and the Goats put just one shot on target, Correa's goal on their first genuine foray.
CARSON -- Four games, no goals, no wins, no points.
That's the sum from Chivas USA's efforts this season at Home Depot Center, and the small but passionate fan base has had enough, as any conversation with the hardcores -- or glance at the message boards they inhabit -- will attest.
It doesn't matter that the Goats (3-5-0) haven't played poorly, except in matters of scoring goals, or that they'd sit fourth were they in the weaker Eastern Conference after winning their first three road encounters. And that's a sentiment the team has taken to heart.
Friday night's clash with the Chicago Fire (2-2-2) at HDC might be the most meaningful game in Robin Fraser's 16-month tenure as head coach. Consider this one must-win. Well, sort of.
“It's not life or death, but it's as close to it for us as you can [get],” midfielder Nick LaBrocca told ESPN Los Angeles. “It's time to step up, and what's happened in the past is not acceptable for us.”
Chivas has been solid defensively, betrayed by brief lapses and moments of indecision -- with only six goals conceded in the first seven games and 81 minutes. It has had the majority of possession in most of its matches, often by a considerable margin. But it's not leading to goals: Chivas has just four in eight games, worst in MLS.
Four players, two of them with the New York Red Bulls, have more. San Jose's Chris Wondolowski and New York's Thierry Henry have doubled the Goats' total on their own.
If you don't score, you can't win.
“How about we start with scoring a goal at home?” offered captain Alejandro Moreno, who has one of Chivas' quartet and is ready to play after missing last week's 4-0 loss at Colorado because of a mild concussion. “And after that, we'll build our way into finding a way to win. Step by step, and, hopefully, we can put it all together and maybe that will translate into three points. And we can make our fans happy and proud of some of the things we're doing on the field.”
CARSON -- Chivas USA hopes Jose Erik Correa possesses what it needs, and so does he.
“I want to score a lot of goals,” the young Colombian forward said through an interpreter after Tuesday's training session at Home Depot Center, his second with the Goats since arriving on an end-of-the-window transfer two weeks ago. “That's one of the characteristics of a forward, and [I want to] do things the best way I can so the coaches and staff are happy with me and the team continues to grow in the league.”
Chivas needs those goals to grow -- it's scored a league-worst four in eight games while otherwise playing rather decent soccer -- and Correa, a burgeoning Colombian national teamer who was tearing up his country's top league, provides an intriguing option up front, hopefully sooner than later.
He's only 19, or 21 -- his official papers say he's a teen, word within the club is he's not -- and needs to adjust to his first experience abroad.
“He's certainly an interesting player,” Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said. “He's got a good build and a good workrate and a good attitude so far. He's a hard-worker, he's got good pace, he can hold the ball up well. He's a good athlete.”
Correa, who scored six goals in his final seven games with Boyaca Chico and last month was called into Colombian national team coach Jose Pekerman's domestic-player camp, the first step toward World Cups and Copa Americas, has characteristics of a target striker but the speed and skill to play as a second forward, too. He could feature as early as Friday night's game against the Chicago Fire at Home Depot Center, Fraser said, depending on “how quickly he adapts to the team and his teammates ... and how he performs in practice.”
Correa says he “thanks God” for the opportunity to come to Major League Soccer, that it's a “very important step for me” and “one of the best things to happen in my life and in soccer.”
“This is a great place to be able to take the first step toward trying to get to Europe or to stay here and make a name for yourself in MLS ...,” he said. “I believe I have grown a lot [in the past year]. If they wouldn't have seen that evolution in me, I wouldn't be here. That's one of the things I admire about myself, that every day I want to be a better player.”
CARSON -- Just as Chivas USA is getting Juan Pablo Angel back into form following a bout with concussion, it has lost its other veteran presence up front to the same injury.
Alejandro Moreno suffered a concussion in last weekend's loss to the Philadelphia Union and will miss the Goats' Major League Soccer match Saturday night at Colorado, but it's possible he could be back the following week, for the May 4 clash with Chicago at Home Depot Center.
“He's in the beginning stages of [MLS's post-concussion] protocol, which probably takes him out for this weekend,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said following training Wednesday at HDC. “All indications is he has progressed that much in that short period of time that he could be available next weekend.”
Moreno, a Venezuelan forward who usually wears the captain's armband for the Goats, has started the last four games after missing the first three with a nose that was broken twice in as many weeks, requiring surgery both times. He's a battler up front and was involved in plenty of physical duels during last weekend's 1-0 defeat.
Which one caused the injury? Fraser wasn't sure.
“Take your pick on the elbow in front of our bench from [Carlos] Valdes as [Gabriel] Farfan underrcut him. There's that one,” Fraser said. “There's another play late, late in the game where the ball goes up in the air and Alejandro is standing here, and Sheanon Williams takes a five-yard run at him and just checks him. You didn't see that, hmm, possible penalty?”
CARSON -- Juan Pablo Angel is training fully again with Chivas USA -- heading the ball and everything -- and could complete Major League Soccer's post-concussion protocol on Thursday, which would make him eligible to play this weekend.
The 36-year-old Colombian striker, who has missed five matches while dealing with concussion symptoms following a preseason collision with Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner, on Tuesday said the last week “was a very good week,” that “this is an important 2-3 days, the next 2-3 days,” and that “I'm excited and hopeful everything goes to plan.”
Chivas (3-3-0) faces the Philadelphia Union (1-3-1) on Saturday night at Home Depot Center.
The Goats' attack has struggled without Angel, who scored seven goals in nine appearances after arriving in a mid-August trade from the Galaxy, scoring just four goals and losing three times by shutout. Alejandro Moreno, Cesar Romero and rookie Casey Townsend have split time atop a 4-2-3-1 alignment, and Miller Bolaņos has played up front in a two-forward formation.
Chivas bolstered its frontline with the acquisition this week of fellow Colombian forward Jose Erick Correa, but he won't be in camp until later this week, perhaps not until next week.
Angel, when game-fit and healthy, is No. 1 on the depth chart.
“He seems to be coming along well,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “I'm sure he kept up with [fitness] pretty well, but I'm sure his game fitness won't be the same. But as long as he's healthy, that's the important thing. And the game fitness will come.”
Angel was hurt after knocking heads with Brunner in a March 1 Timbers tournament match in Portland, Ore. He finished the game, played 63 minutes in the preseason finale three days later against San Jose, then went the distance in the March 11 league opener against Houston.
Bolaņos finished from crosses from Jorge Villafaņa in the 68th minute and trialist Victor Chavez in the 80th. He also converted a penalty kick in the 12th minute, after Chivas director of soccer operations Kevin Esparza -- serving as referee after the officiating crew didn't show -- whistled Normando Mariscal after contact with Villafaņa.
Julio Madrigal scored both goals for the Rangers, curling in a corner kick off of goalkeeper Patrick McLain's hands in the third minute and then firing the fourth-tier club ahead again 11 minutes into the second half.
Bolaņos continues to assimilate into American soccer, which is a far more physical, frantic game than he's used to in Ecuador.
“Before I came here, they had told me it's a very strong soccer, and little by little I'm going to adapt and I'm going to adjust to the group,” he said.
Bolaņos has made just two appearances in five MLS games, both off the bench, and is trying to work his way into the first-team starting XI. Games like these help.
Much ado, of course, over the Western Conference standings five weeks into the Major League Soccer season, with the Galaxy -- defending champion and, after a couple of big offseason additions, odds-on favorites to repeat -- sitting at the bottom, ninth place, a dozen points off the lead.
It's too early to panic, head coach Bruce Arena insists, with seven months until the playoffs arrive, but it requires minimal insight to see that the best soccer team in L.A. at the moment isn't the one everyone expected.
The Galaxy is 1-3-0 in league play, 1-4-1 in all competitive matches and have dropped three games at Home Depot Center after losing none last year in 25 outings.
That home win, an impressive victory three weeks ago over a flailing D.C. United side, is about the only thing L.A. has over cross-stadium rival Chivas USA at the moment. The Goats (2-3-0) haven't won in three home games, but Saturday night's 2-1 comeback triumph at Portland was their second victory in as many away matches.
Where the Galaxy has struggled to defend without star backliner Omar Gonzalez, seen its star-studded midfield overrun (never more so than in Saturday's 1-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City and last weekend's 3-1 defeat at home to New England) and has yet to build any real chemistry up top, Chivas has been superb defensively and for the first time showed signs during a scintillating second-half performance in Portland that its attack, more or less nonexistent in the first four games, is starting to find its footing.
Chivas has been in every game it's played and, with a little better fortune (and a lot better finishing), could be 5-0-0. It gave Sporting K.C. a better battle than the Galaxy did, beat a Real Salt Lake team (in Sandy, Utah) that toppled the Galaxy (at Home Depot Center), and deserved points in 1-0 losses to MLS Cup runner-up Houston and Vancouver, which hadn't lost until Saturday.
The moods surrounding the teams are telling.
Chivas USA can point to a lot of good in what hasn't been a particularly sharp start to the Major League Soccer season, in terms of possession and defensive work all over the field.
It has not been nearly enough, but the Goats believe they're about to turn a corner. A couple of goals Saturday night in Portland might be enough.
Chivas (1-3-0, 3 points) is coming off a solid week of training, head coach Robin Fraser said, following an impressive offensive performance in Monday's MLS Reserve League victory over the Galaxy.
“I think we really looked at a lot of our issues and, at the end of the day, talked about being aggressive in the attacking end of the field,” Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles after arriving Friday in Portland, Ore. “We had a good week of training in regard to that. Most important, I think, is the mentality of the team continues to solidify to do the things we need to do to be successful.
“I think our runs were more aggressive [Monday], our ideas were more aggressive, and certainly that needs to translate [into Saturday's game].”
Cesar Romero, who against netted his second hat trick with the reserve team, and Miller Bolaņos, the Ecuadoran attacker who so ably partnered Romero, could get a look against the Timbers. They prospered in a 4-4-2 alignment, with diamond midfield -- Chivas' preferred system last year. The Goats have used a 4-2-3-1 most of this season, including all four league matches.
Rookie Casey Townsend has gotten starts the past three games in Juan Pablo Angel's absence, and he has Chivas' lone goal this season, a heads-up finish to beat Real Salt Lake two weeks ago in Sandy, Utah.
The other three matches, all at home, have been 1-0 defeats marked by superb defending, a healthy amount of possession and inadequate penetration. In four games, the Goats have created four true goal chances.