Chivas USA's struggles to start the season are about continuity and consistency more than anything else.
Continuity continues to challenge the Goats (0-2-2), who have had to use several players' versatility -- sometimes previously unmined -- to deal with an injury crisis in midfield and along the backline.
Despite the turmoil, Chivas at its best has dominated possession and created chances while playing solid team defense nearly everywhere on the field. The attack has sometimes suffered a lack of ideas or initiative, and individual errors have led to goal opportunities opponents have put away.
A first victory is the primary aim Saturday afternoon in Vancouver against the Whitecaps, but seeing real improvement in deficient areas is almost as important.
“In the situation we're in right now,” forward Alejandro Moreno said, “we need to focus on putting a good 90 minutes together … a consistent 90 minutes of a good, solid performance and a little continuity into our play, and hopefully that will translate into a good result.”
The expansion Whitecaps possess an attack that can cause Chivas' backline problems, so head coach Robin Fraser must decide whether he'd be better off with veteran Andy Boyens, rather than rookie Zarek Valentin, partnering converted outside back Heath Pearce in the middle.
Vancouver has surrendered 10 goals in five games, so here's an opportunity for the Goats, after just four goals in five games, to find their footing up front.
“If you look at the way we've played in spurts, I think we're very forward-thinking, kind of on the front foot,” Fraser said. “Whether [we're playing] Vancouver of somebody else, I think if we're very forward-thinking, we'll create a few opportunities.
“I think at times we've been our own worst enemies. We've not been poor, but in the final third, when we don't have that aggression, we become complacent and we don't create as many opportunities.”
INJURY LIST: Not much has changed. Midfielder Blair Gavin (hamstring strain) and forward Tristan Bowen (sprained ankle) are the only guys listed as out, but Jimmy Conrad (concussion) hasn't been cleared, and midfielder Paulo Nagamura (calf strain), also officially questionable, is at least a week away from getting into a game. Defender Seth Owusu isn't on the list, but an ankle injury is expected to keep him out.
Teitur Thordarson, a former Iceland national team captain, coached in Sweden, Norway, Estonia and his native Iceland before taking charge of the Whitecaps in December 2007. He led them to the USL First Division title his first season, into the final his second year, and takes them into MLS for his fourth campaign. Thordarson, 59, was a prolific forward in Iceland, Sweden, France and Switzerland, and he and his much younger brother, Olafur, had a brief spell as teammates with Iceland.
Three key players
At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Frenchman Eric Hassli, 29, is a giant in soccer terms, with decent skill and a nose for the net. His last two appearances have ended in dumb red cards.
Brazilian forward Camilo, 23, is the yin to Hassli's yang, a slippery ball wizard who creates and finishes.
Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento, 26, leads MLS with four assists -- and he's still not 100 percent following ankle and quad injuries.
The Whitecaps (1-2-2) have looked very good, especially on attack, and very bad, when their opponents are attacking, which has made for some terrifically entertaining matches in one of the league's most passionate venues. Camilo has been sensational, a star in the making, and there's a lot of good supporting talent. But Jay Nolly, a good goalkeeper, has been overwhelmed at times by sloppy defending, and Sporting Kansas City and Houston knocked three past him.
Veteran midfielder John Thorrington, born in South Africa, grew up in Palos Verdes Estates and played at The Chadwick School before heading to Manchester United at 17. … Forward Atiba Harris was a Chivas USA starter in 2008. … Midfielder/defender Kevin Harmse was with the Galaxy in 2007 and briefly with Chivas in 2009. … No. 2 goalkeeper Joe Cannon was the Galaxy's starter in 2007. … Rookie defender Michael Boxall is from UC Santa Barbara.
Rookie midfielder Michael Nanchoff (groin strain), one of the Akron boys, and defender Greg Janicki (hip contusion) are out. … Thorrington (calf strain), Harris (sprained knee), U.S. national team defender Jay DeMerit (groin strain), and midfielders Terry Dunfield (groin strain), Shea Salinas (sprained knee) and Russell Teibert (hip flexor) are questionable. … Midfielder Gershon Koffie is with Ghana's under-20 national team for the African Youth Championship.
At Empire Stadium (Vancouver), 4 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690)
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Reserve League: Sunday, 11 a.m., Empire Stadium