Chivas USA's Major League Soccer opener is just a week away, and the club enters its final preparations in turmoil. The Goats were battered in their final preseason match Sunday, a 5-0 disaster against the San Jose Earthquakes in Portland, Ore., and head coach Robin Fraser admitted afterward that the difference between where his team is and where he wants it to be is “pretty far apart.”
Defensive problems were at the core of the defeat on the final day of the Portland Timbers' four-team, round-robin tournament, a tight match until the second half, when the Quakes scored four goals -- three in the final 11 minutes -- to send Chivas home desperate for answers before its league opener next Sunday against Houston at Home Depot Center.
“They should be embarrassed,” Fraser said of his players afterward. “Everyone should be so embarrassed that we come into this week with some resolve that this can't continue.”
It was the second time in the preseason Chivas has conceded five goals -- Club Tijuana won the San Diego friendly, 5-2, a week and a half ago -- and although results in these games mean nothing, the Goats are a side still finding itself and learning how to win together.
Winning these games was vital because it could lead to wins once the scores matter.
“Exactly,” Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “Winning confirms belief and losing creates doubt, so while there were good moments in preseason, when we don't get the results we want, then there's doubt. The good thing is the season begins next week, we can get a win and all of a sudden tons of belief again.”
Chivas went 3-7-1 in its preseason matches -- 1-5-1 against MLS opposition -- and accomplished several things. The Goats found two good young forwards (Cesar Romero and first-round draft pick Casey Townsend), developed a starting backline, built several combinations in midfield and installed a 4-2-3-1 formation that Fraser will consider along with a more customary 4-4-2.
But their only wins came against vastly inferior foes (fourth-division amateurs FC Hasental and Loyola Marymount University) or in shorter matches (a 60-minute win over the Montreal Impact, with both teams using primarily reserve players).
Chivas was the better side at the start Sunday and could have scored twice in the first 15 minutes, first when Townsend took advantage of a poor Ike Opara header -- Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch came well off his line to solve that one -- and then on a Michael Lahoud shot from outside the box that forced a diving save from Busch.
Chris Wondolowski, who has scored 34 goals the past two seasons, scored following a giveaway in the 27th minute, and the game was San Jose's the rest of the way. Justin Morrow tallied from a corner kick seven minutes into the second half, and goals by substitutes Tressor Moreno, Sercan Guvenisik and UC Santa Barbara product Sam Garza turned it into a rout.
“That was a poor performance all around, and we have a lot of things to get a lot better in a week ...,” Fraser said. “Our concern right now is how the group is playing.”
WORTH NOTING: Midfielder Nick LaBrocca suffered a leg injury, but there was no immediate word on the severity. … Blair Gavin missed the final five preseason games while dealing with a hamstring strain -- the kind of injury that's dogged him his first two MLS seasons -- but Fraser said everybody aside from midfielder Marvin Iraheta (torn ACL) would be available if the season started now. … Romero and Townsend led Chivas with four preseason goals, and Lahoud scored three. Star forward Juan Pablo Angel, still unsigned, tallied just once, on a penalty in the win over Hasental. … Chivas was outscored, 19-15, in 11 preseason matches, but dump the Hasental and LMU games and the total is 19-6. … San Jose won the tournament on goal difference after Portland beat Swedish club AIK, 1-0, in the second game. Scottish forward Kris Boyd tallied in his Timbers debut. Chivas finished last.
PORTLAND TIMBERS TOURNAMENT
Jeld-Wen Field (Portland, Ore.)
San Jose Earthquakes 5, Chivas USA 0
SJ -- Chris Wondolowski (Shea Salinas) 27
SJ -- Justin Morrow (Ramiro Corrales, Marvin Chavez) 52
SJ -- Tressor Moreno (Ramiro Corrales) 80
SJ -- Sercan Guvenisik (Tressor Moreno) 84
SJ -- Sam Garza (Sercan Guvenisik) 88
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch; Stephen Beitashour, Ike Opara (Jason Hernandez, 46), Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales; Sam Cronin; Marvin Chavez (Sam Garza, 75), Rafael Baca, Chris Wondolowski (Sercan Guvenisik, 79), Shea Salinas (Tressor Moreno, 62); Steven Lenhart (Khari Stephenson, 63).
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, John Alexander Valencia, Heath Pearce (Rauwshan McKenzie, 63), Jorge Villafaña; Michael Lahoud (Ryan Smith, 46), Oswaldo Minda (Ben Zemanski, 59), Nick LaBrocca (Peter Vagenas, 77), Laurent Courtois; Casey Townsend, Juan Pablo Angel (Cesar Romero, 64).
Yellow cards: Pearce 12, Beitashour 31, Chavez 58.
Referee: Yader Reyes. Att.: NA.
CHIVAS USA PRESEASON
Record: 3-7-1; vs, MLS: 1-4-1
Jan. 27 vs. Ventura County Fusion (PDL), 60 mins.: L, 0-1
Feb. 3 vs. FC Hasental (NPSL): W, 5-0 (Lahoud 22, Angel pen. 24, Smith 40, Cortez 50, Romero 89)
Feb. 7 vs. Colorado Rapids: L, 0-1
Feb. 11 vs. Chicago Fire: L, 0-1
Feb. 14 vs. Montreal Impact, 60 mins.: W, 1-0 (Townsend 2)
Feb. 16 vs. Galaxy: L, 2-3 (Lahoud 53, Romero 77)
Feb. 22 vs. Club Tijuana (Mexico): L, 2-5 (Lahoud 36, Townsend 88)
Feb. 24 vs. Loyola Marymount: W, 4-0 (Townsend 10, 40, Souza 19, Romero pen. 49)
Feb. 27 vs. AIK (Sweden): L, 0-2
March 1 at Portland Timbers: T, 1-1 (Romero 21)
March 4 vs. San Jose Earthquakes: L, 0-5