CHIVAS USA: Goats say they're ready

CARSON -- Training sessions out on Field 6 at Home Depot Center have intensified the past week, partly in response to Chivas USA's horrid preseason finale last weekend, a 5-0 loss in Portland, Ore., to San Jose that head coach Robin Fraser called “embarrassing.”

Perhaps that played a role -- Fraser thinks so -- but the prospect of playing a real game, with something actually at stake, appears to have sent the real wake-up call.

Chivas opens its Major League Soccer campaign Sunday afternoon at Home Depot Center against the Houston Dynamo, last year's MLS Cup runners-up -- and usually one of the best teams in the league. That's got everyone at the club buzzing.

“These last few days in training, has been the first time I've felt the atmosphere change …,” backline leader Heath Pearce said, “We've sort of been going through the motions this preseason, maybe more than we should, in terms of taking it seriously or demanding results in every training and every game. But these last three days have been extremely intense. There's an aura about the team. The team's realizing just where we are right now and that the first game's on Sunday and three points are what matters now.”

The Goats are looking to return to the playoffs after missing the past two years, and there's plenty of work to be done to get there. The Dynamo provide something of a model. Fraser is a fan of what Dominic Kinnear has accomplished in Houston -- and in San Jose, before the club's move to South Texas after the 2005 season.

“They're the epitome of a hard-working blue-collar team,” Fraser said. “They don't cheat, they have players who get up on every attack and get back on every defensive play. Just to have honest players alone puts you in position to win in this league, but then they have very talented players as well.

“They're a team that's not going to give you anything, that's for sure, and you have to scratch and fight for everything you get against them, and you know that going in.”

WORTH NOTING: Chivas' MLS Reserve League game Monday against the Galaxy has been postponed, with no new date determined. … Houston plays its first seven games on the road as its new BBVA Compass Stadium is finalized for a May 12 opening, against D.C. United. Sporting Kansas City played its first 10 games last season on the road, going 1-6-3, before Livestrong Sporting Park opened. K.C. won the Eastern Conference regular-season title. The Galaxy played their first eight games in 2003 away, posting a 0-4-4 mark, before Home Depot Center opened. … The Dynamo on Friday signed draft choices Warren Creavalle and Brian Ownby. UCLA product (from Chino Hills) Eder Arreola, taken in January's supplemental draft, was not signed.



Head coach:Dominic Kinnear

Key players: F Brian Ching, M Brad Davis, D Geoff Cameron, G Tally Hall

Local guys: None.

Update: The Dynamo got hot at the end of last season, sprinted through the Eastern Conference playoff bracket and, missing star winger Brad Davis, lost to the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final at HDC. Davis, who suffered a torn quadriceps in the Eastern final, is expected to make his return to the lineup against Chivas. He's expert on crosses and set pieces -- second only to David Beckham in MLS -- and the return of Brian Ching, after a short, forced fling with expansion Montreal, provides a fine target (and masterful leader). Houston went 7-3-3 in preseason, but five of those victories were against colleges and academy teams.



Out:M Blair Gavin (right hamstring strain), M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear).

Probable: F Nick LaBrocca (bruised right leg), G Tim Melia (right hand laceration), F Alejandro Moreno (broken nose), D James Riley (sprained left ankle)




Home Depot Center (Carson), 4 p.m.

Referee:Silviu Petrescu

TV: Prime Ticket and Galavision

Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)