CARSON -- The team Chivas USA wants to become holds on for a scoreless draw in its opener against Houston, if it hasn't already eked out a victory. The Goats can battle and maintain possession all they want, as they did in last weekend's start to the Major League Soccer season, but winning matches requires something more.
Head coach Robin Fraser and his veteran roster would like to believe they possess the needed mentality and that turning that belief into points will only take time. Hopefully, about 90 minutes.
Chivas heads into its second outing of the season Saturday night against the resurgent Vancouver Whitecaps at Home Depot Center desperate for points, especially after missing out on one at the death in last week's last-minute loss to the Dynamo.
The Goats played with grit, controlled the ball and created enough chances to win -- even if the attack was stagnant until the final 25 minutes -- but gave up a scrappy goal deep into stoppage to drop their third straight, dating to the end of Fraser's first season in charge.
“We're taking steps in the right direction,” said midfielder Peter Vagenas, who spent last season with Vancouver after nine seasons with the Galaxy and two more in Seattle. “It's a new group, and day by day we're taking steps forward, and it's not going to be an easy task, but it isn't that way for any team in this league. Once we get it right, we've got potential.”
That was the verdict throughout the locker room after the 1-0 defeat -- their performance bolstered belief, making for a moral victory of sorts for a team that can still use them. Real victories must follow, and the Whitecaps, who romped in their opener against expansion Montreal, provide a sizable challenge.
Vancouver was the worst team in MLS last year, but they've taken great steps to improve every aspect of the club, with new coach Martin Rennie improving talent (especially in an attack that could rival the league's best), balance, depth, fight and belief. The Whitecaps appear capable of making a statement in year two.
“They have a lot of attackers, they have a lot of good attacking players, and they've certainly brought in some good attacking players,” Fraser noted. “You coulld see on the weekend they were dynamic in their attack and very solid defensively.”
The 'Caps (6-18-10 in 2011) are much like Chivas, which is in year two of its rebuild. The Canadians have not won on the road in MLS -- they were 0-12-5 last year -- and are seeking to instill a winning mentality.
“You go into every game feeling that [victory is] mandatory ...,” Fraser said. “It's important that we do well and validates what it is that we're doing. [Last] weekend was a step in the right direction. They really fought to the bitter end, but I think that there are growing pains with any relatively new team. That's part of it. Sometimes things just magically work, but sometimes you have to grind them out where you want them.”
WORTH NOTING: Chivas is still without winger Michael Lahoud (hamstring strain), and forward Juan Pablo Angel (head injury) and midfielder Alejandro Moreno (broken nose) also could be missing. Fraser said Angel and Moreno were “touch and go” and would be “game-time decisions,” but Moreno said he wouldn't be playing until seeing the doctor again next week. Angel was hopeful he'd be available. … Chivas has pushed back its reserve friendly Sunday against UC Riverside from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will play on one of the fields along HDC's primary entrance from Avalon Boulevard. The Galaxy play in the main stadium at 4, so parking will not be free on the HDC grounds.
Head coach: Martin Rennie
Key players: F Sebastien Le Toux, F Eric Hassli, F Camilo, M Davide Chiumiento, D Jay DeMerit, D Lee Young-Pyo
Local guys: D Jordan Harvey (Mission Viejo), M John Thorrington (Palos Verdes)
Update: The Whitecaps finished last in MLS in its debut season but were making changes before the end. Rennie, a terrifically successful coach in America's minor leagues, was brought on board last summer and started as head coach in the offseason, and he's added to a talented attack with the acquisition of, especially, Le Toux (from Philadelphia) and bolstered his defense with Korean Lee. Vancouver went unbeaten in preseason, won the Disney Pro Soccer Classic and stomped Montreal, 3-1, in a vivid opener last week.
Out: M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear), M Michael Lahoud (right hamstring strain).
Doubtful: M Blair Gavin (right hamstring strain), M Alejandro Moreno (broken nose).
Questionable: F Juan Pablo Angel (head contusion).
Out: F Etienne Barbara (groin strain), G Brian Sylvestre (right knee surgery), M John Thorrington (left quad strain), M Michael Nanchoff (left heel contusion).
Questionable: F Atiba Harris (left knee pain).
Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
TV: KDOC/Channel 56 (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)