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CHIVAS USA: Goats want to turn spark into success

If this goes as Chivas USA is hoping, Andy Boyens might be seen as a hero of sorts, just for getting tossed.

It was the tall center back's red card at the end of the first half in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup qualifying loss at Portland that seemed finally to switch the Goats to “on,” and if they can build on the effort in the 2-0 defeat to the Timbers, then watch out.

That's the scenario Chivas (0-2-0) is looking for, starting with today's game at Toronto FC (1-1-0), which continued its rebuild Friday with a blockbuster trade, sending star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, a five-time MLS Best XI pick, to the New York Red Bulls for midfielder Tony Tchani, winger Danleigh Borman and a first-round draft pick next year.

Robin Fraser's aggressive maneuvering to restock the Goats greatly enhanced the side's quality and depth, but it wasn't until Boyens was ejected following his second yellow card just before halftime Tuesday that they played with the kind of mentality the new coach has been looking for.

The Goats did a lot of good things, especially in possession and team defending, in losses at home to Sporting Club Kansas City and Colorado to begin the Major League Soccer season, but there was a spark in their play after the New Zealander's expulsion that hadn't been present previously.

“This is the first time thus far this season that I think we've outcompeted [against an opponent] ...,” midfielder Michael Lahoud said after Tuesday's loss. “I think we take this energy and lift it up another notch, and I think we can compete against any team in the league. I seriously mean that.”

The Goats had the better of play in the second half, but they created just one outstanding scoring opportunity and gave up two goals moments afterward. They have to do a better job of putting away chances, and it seems the partnership between Justin Braun and Marcos Mondaini is crucial. Alejandro Moreno's return from duty with Venezuela's national team also could be important.

But Chivas thinks its effort, and its sharpness with that effort, is more important than who is positioned where.

“I'm really looking forward to [the game against Toronto] because I think we have a lot of good energy,” Lahoud said. “Unfortunately, it took us getting to 10 men to bring that fight and energy everybody has been looking for from us, but I don't see why we can't maintain it and ask for even more.”

WORTH NOTING: Fraser is using a makeshift lineup, especially in the back (three center backs missing) and midfield (three central midfielders out). The Ben Zemanski-Heath Pearce partnership in central defense worked well the second half vs. Portland, but Boyens could be back in the middle so that Pearce can return to right back, enabling Lahoud to move back to the holding midfield slot. Ante Jazic is expected to be back on the left. … Very early choice for team MVP: Nick LaBrocca, the preseason pick-up from Toronto FC, who has been tireless and quietly effective in central midfield.

INJURY LIST: It's growing. The newest casualty is forward Tristan Bowen, who suffered a sprained ankle in the closing moments of Tuesday's loss. No timetable on him, but the sprain apparently is somewhat severe. … Central defender Jimmy Conrad missed the trip with a mild concussion. Three midfielders remain out: Paulo Nagamura (strained left calf), Blair Gavin (left hamstring strain) and Simon Elliott (sprained right knee).

ALSO MISSING: Rookie defender Zarek Valentin is away with the U.S. under-20 national team, which Saturday faces Panama in a group finale at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Guatemala. … Central defender Michael UmaƱa has not yet rejoined the club after playing for Costa Rica's national team.

  • THE OPPONENT

TORONTO FC

Head coach

  • Aron Winter, brought in over the offseason to rebuild the hapless Reds, was a top central midfielder for the Dutch national team (84 caps, two World Cups, three European Championships) and for clubs in Holland (Ajax Amsterdam, Sparta Rotterdam) and in Italy (Lazio, Inter Milan). He joined Toronto FC after serving as an assistant coach at Ajax.

Three key players

  • Swiss-born, NorCal-raised, Cal-educated Stefan Frei, 24, is MLS's best young goalkeeper, has been since snaring a starting spot as a rookie in '09.

  • Netherlands Antilles-born wing-forward Javier Martina, who scored his first two MLS goals in last week's win, played for Winter and assistant coach Bob de Klerk at Ajax.

  • Cameroonian-born Tony Tchani, the big prize for TFC from the De Rosario trade, is an athletic and aggressive central midfielder who will be expected to pay quick dividends

Current form/prospects

  • Toronto FC's bleak history has raised the ire of its faithful supporters and spurred owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to start over, bringing in a new management team (led by Winter), which in turn has brought in 16 new players, including three Dutchmen. The Reds were overrun in an emotional opener at Vancouver but looked better in a 2-0 victory last weekend over Portland, a flattering result. Friday's big trade ought to be a positive in the long run -- De Rosario will be 33 in six weeks, isn't considered a “team player,” and his departure opens cap space -- and the rebuild is going to take some time.

Local connections

  • Long Beach-born forward Alan Gordon was acquired from the Goats just before the start of the season. He was with Chivas for less than a year but spent the previous six years with the Galaxy. … Brazilian forward Maicon Santos scored three league goals in a season and a half with Chivas in 2009-10. … Defender Dan Gargan spent two weeks with Chivas in 2008 before an abrupt but short-lived retirement. … Midfielder Nathan Sturgis started his pro career with the Galaxy in 2006-07, and defender Ty Harden was a rookie starter for L.A. in 2007. … Team consultant Juergen Klinsmann lives in Huntington Beach.

Missing

  • Canadian national-teamer Julian de Guzman (recovering from knee surgery) and fellow midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba (sprained knee) are out, and defender Nana Attakora (knee) is questionable. … Belgian defender Mikael Yourassowsky is suspended after picking up a pair of yellow cards in last week's win. … Defender Doneil Henry is at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship with Canada's team.

  • THE GAME

At BMO Field (Toronto), 10 a.m. PDT

TV: Prime Ticket

Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)

Referee: Baldomero Toledo