If Chivas USA did indeed turn a very important corner in last weekend's victory at Portland, they'll need to build on it Saturday when they visit Toronto FC -- the worst team in Major League Soccer, according to the standings -- looking for back-to-back wins for only the second time under Robin Fraser.
The Goats (2-3-0, 6 points) followed an abysmal first half with a tremendous second-half performance last week, with virtually everything that had troubled them through the first four games -- the lack of attack the most glaring problem -- falling into place as English winger Ryan Smith fueled a comeback for a 2-1 triumph over the Timbers.
It was Chivas' second win in as many road games, and injury-hit Toronto FC, off to a 0-4-0 league start, provides an opportunity to make it two in a row.
Fraser knows that won't be easy.
“I think [Toronto is] a hungry team,” he told ESPN Los Angeles on the eve of the clash at BMO Field. “A hungry team that certainly did well in the Champions League, getting some good results and with how they played. They've not had the same results to show in league, but they're definitely better than their record shows.
“At home, I know they feel they must get this win. I expect a very hard-fought game.”
The Goats have matched foes in the grit department, and their defense has been sparkling, a few costly plays aside, in three 1-0 home losses and the road victories over Real Salt Lake and Portland. But their attack had lacked the requisite aggression and precision before Smith came on at halftime last week and changed things with a quick run past Timbers right back Lovel Palmer and a pinpoint cross for Alejandro Moreno to head home.
That was the tying goal, and Smith did it again in the 82nd minute, finding Nick LaBrocca's head for the winner.
To build on it, Fraser said, the Goats must “quite frankly, accent some of the positives and then, hopefully, come out and be better at the things we were good at and improve the areas we were lacking. ... The players' confidence and belief, I think, are greater than before the [Portland] game, not only because we won, but we played in a pretty good fashion and were able to control large portions of the second half.”
Chivas won successive games under Fraser nearly a year ago, beating San Jose and New England in late April, and haven't done so since. The next step in the evolution calls for them to string together victories.
“That's important no matter where we are and what's going on,” Fraser said. “Teams that win definitely do that. Teams that win in this league string victories together. Certainly in our building process and in taking steps to be a good team, that has to be part of it.”
WORTH NOTING: Chivas is still without forward Juan Pablo Angel, who has missed four games while going through post-concussion protocol. Michael Lahoud, upgraded to probable on the injury list, did not make the trip after taking a knock in Tuesday's scrimmage against Fullerton Rangers as he was coming back from a hamstring injury. ... Midfielder Paolo Cardozo, acquired in a trade Tuesday from the Galaxy, could make his Goats debut. ... All three Chivas defeats this year have been by one goal. Twelve of 14 losses last year were by one goal. ... Chivas leads the all-time series, 7-2-1, but it's 2-2-1 in Toronto. ... Toronto's German star, Torsten Frings, out because of a hamstring injury, told reporters that doctors “say it is too big a risk for me to play” against Chivas. ... Reds defender Adrian Cann, out since last May 31 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is likely to return to action, and in the starting lineup, head coach Aron Winter said. ... Toronto defender Logan Emory is suspended after receiving a red card in last week's loss at Montreal.
Head coach: Aron Winter
Key players: D/M Torsten Frings, F Danny Koevermans, D Miguel Aceval, M Julian de Guzman, F Ryan Johnson, F Joao Plata, M Nick Soolsma.
Local guys: M Luis Silva (Los Angeles/UC Santa Barbara), M Eric Avila (UC Santa Barbara).
Update: The Reds roared into the season with a two-legged CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal victory over the Galaxy, clinching with a 2-1 win at Home Depot Center, but they've done virtually nothing in six games since as injuries have piled up everywhere. Frings' hamstring strain has been most damaging -- he's the leader for TFC and was pivotal in the Galaxy series -- and losing Soolsma, who netted the winner against L.A., to a hamstring strain and goalkeeper Stefan Frei with a broken leg have hurt, too. Toronto has just one win in eight games this season, and it's 0-4-0 in MLS, worst in the league.
Out: F Juan Pablo Angel (head contusion), M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear).
Questionable: M Peter Vagenas (fractured rib).
Probable: M Michael Lahoud (right hamstring strain).
Out: F Nicholas Lindsay (left knee surgery), D Dicoy Williams (right knee surgery), D Jeremy Hall (sports hernia surgery); G Stefan Frei (broken left leg), M Nick Soolsma (left hamstring strain).
Questionable: M Torsten Frings (right hamstring strain).
Probable: D Adrian Cann (right knee surgery).
BMO Field (Toronto), 1:30 p.m. PT
Referee: Mark Geiger
TV: Fox Sports West (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)