Preview: Revamped Chivas host veteran Houston squad

CHIVAS USA vs HOUSTON DYNAMO
THE HOME DEPOT CENTER, Carson, Calif.
March 11, 2012 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #7)
4 p.m. PT (Galavision)

Barely four months ago, the Houston Dynamo were at The Home Depot Center in MLS Cup 2011. Now they start the 2012 season at the same place – taking on Chivas USA to kick off the new season. Chivas are looking to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years, while the Dynamo returned to their third MLS Cup in six years in Houston, their first since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

REFEREE: Silviu Petrescu. SAR (bench): Darren Clark; JAR (opposite): Daniel Belleau; 4th: Paul Ward
MLS Career: 39 games; FC/gm: 28.0; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 7; pens: 6

INJURY REPORT:

  • CHIVAS USA -- OUT: MF Blair Gavin (R hamstring strain); MF Marvin Iraheta (R knee ACL tear); PROBABLE: MF Nick LaBrocca (R leg contusion); GK Tim Melia (R hand laceration); FW Alejandro Moreno (broken nose); DF James Riley (L ankle sprain)
  • HOUSTON DYNAMO -- NONE REPORTED

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INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (16 meetings): Chivas USA 2 wins, 12 goals … Dynamo 9 wins, 27 goals … Ties 5
AT CHIVAS USA (7 meetings): Chivas USA 2 wins, 10 goals … Dynamo 2 wins, 9 goals … Ties 3

LAST YEAR (MLS):
6/11: HOU 2, CHV 1 (Cameron 29; own goal 55 – Mondaini 7)
7/23: CHV 3, HOU 0 (Braun 31, 40, 86)

  • This is the only meeting between the teams this season.
  • Chivas USA defeated Houston 3-0 in their second meeting last year, July 23 at The Home Depot Center, the Red-and-White’s first league victory against the Dynamo since 2006 (a span of 12 games).
  • Chivas USA will end their history at Robertson Stadium winless all-time in league play (0-7-2). When they scored in last year’s first meeting there, it was the first goal by the rojiblancos in league play in Houston since their first visit, July 8, 2006.
  • Coaches record: Robin Fraser vs. HOU: P2 W1 L0 D1 … Dominic Kinnear vs. CHV: P20 W11 L2 D7

CHIVAS USA

Chivas USA begin a second season with Robin Fraser at the helm bidding for a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs, which they reached for four consecutive seasons before missing out each of the last two. Chivas USA finished eighth in the Western Conference a season ago.

  • Chivas USA ended their preseason campaign with a thud, falling to a 5-0 defeat by the San Jose Earthquakes in the final game of the Portland Preseason Tournament.
  • “It was extremely poor and extremely disappointing,” Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser said. “It was disappointing because we have a number of things that we have to clean up in a week.”
  • Here’s the Chivas USA team: Dan Kennedy, James Riley, John Valencia, Heath Pearce (Rauwshan McKenzie 63), Jorge Villafana, Laurent Courtois, Michael Lahoud (Ryan Smith 46), Oswaldo Minda (Ben Zemanski 59), Nick LaBrocca (Peter Vagenas 76), Juan Pablo Angel (Cesar Romero 63), Casey Townsend.
  • Chivas USA concluded the preseason with a 3-7-1 record, including a 1-4-1 mark against MLS competition.
  • “A lot of it comes down to team defending. When we’ve defended well, we’ve attacked well and we’ve played well. And when we don’t defend well, then the opposite is true,” Fraser said. “We have to look at our commitment level, our organization, our willingness to get into battles and to be able to fight through adversity.”
  • One of the bright lights of the preseason for the rojiblancos has been the play of Cesar Romero, who scored four goals in preseason. Signed from indoor soccer, Romero also played for Murcielagos FC de Guamuchil of Mexico’s second division.
  • “I’m really excited right now," he said. "Every day I just keep working harder and harder for that starting position or to be that first option to play. My strength is finding those little spaces behind the defense, and once [my teammates and I] get more familiar with one another, then we’ll be very dangerous.”
  • Romero has featured up top alongside both Juan Pablo Ángel and SuperDraft selection Casey Townsend – who also scored four goals during preseason play.
  • “I’m feeling good. I’m feeling confident,” Townsend said. “I’ve been getting minutes here and there and I’ve been scoring goals, so hopefully I can keep it going and hope that we can get a few wins in the preseason.”
  • Said Fraser: “We’ve seen that we have the ability to be dangerous. We have some players who can be extremely difficult to deal with for opponents, but we’ve also seen that at times, we’ve been far too poor defensively. Some of that is concentration and commitment and these are all things that have to get better for us to have success.”

OFFSEASON TRANSACTIONS

  • IN: M Ryan Smith (11/21: trade from Sporting KC); D James Riley (11/23: from Seattle, via trade from Montreal); M Oswaldo Minda (12/21: SD Quito); M Miller Bolaños (1/11: LDU Quito); F Casey Townsend (1/12: SuperDraft); D R.J. Allen (1/17: supplemental draft); G Tim Melia (1/17: free); D John Valencia (1/24: Atlético Junior); M Marvin Iraheta (1/24: Cosmos Academy); D Rauwshan McKenzie (2/22: free); M Peter Vagenas (2/22: free); F Cesar Romero (2/22: free)
  • OUT: F Justin Braun (11/23: trade to Montreal); M Gerson Mayen (11/23: trade to Montreal); D Zarek Valentin (11/23: expansion draft); M Paulo Nagamura (11/29: trade to Sporting KC); D Andrew Boyens (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); F Chukwudi Chujindu (12/12: option declined); M Simon Elliott (12/12: out of contract); G Zach Thornton (12/12: option declined); D Mariano Trujillo (12/12: option declined); D Michael Umaña (1/2: free/Comunicaciones); F Marcos Mondaini (1/4: loan option declined); G Sergio Arias (1/4: loan option declined); F Víctor Estupiñán (1/4: option declined)

HOUSTON DYNAMO

The Houston Dynamo come off a stirring postseason run that led all the way to MLS Cup 2011, before a 1-0 loss to the host LA Galaxy dashed hopes of a third MLS title for the club. Dominic Kinnear is in his seventh season in charge in Houston – the only head coach the club has known – after seeing his group finish second in the Eastern Conference last year.

  • The Dynamo concluded their preseason schedule with a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas in the consolation final of the Disney Pro Soccer Challenge last weekend. The game’s lone goal came from Brek Shea after nine minutes.
  • Here’s the Dynamo team: Tally Hall – Corey Ashe (85’ Oscar Recio), Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault (79’ Kofi Sarkodie) – Brad Davis, Adam Moffat, Je-Vaughn Watson (77’ Youssouf Hersi), Colin Clark (61’ Luiz Camargo) – Mac Kandji (61’ Cam Weaver), Will Bruin (67’ Calen Carr)
  • The Dynamo concluded their participation in the Disney event with two draws and two losses, scoring just a single goal in the four games.
  • “We’ve got to find the form of those [forwards] and be consistent with one another and use them to their strengths. If we do that, we’ll be OK,” said Geoff Cameron. “Building up to [our opener vs. Chivas USA], it’s been a pretty good preseason for us. Now we have to put the switch on because with the season starting this coming week, we have to be aware of it and ready. Mentally you have to be sharp. You can’t dwell on balls and turn off on plays. That’s something we have to do better.”
  • Despite the loss, the Dynamo were heartened when midfielder Brad Davis played the full match. Davis was injured in last year’s Eastern Conference Championship vs. Sporting KC, which left him out of MLS Cup 2011.
  • “I feel like I’m good,” Davis said. “For the sharpness I may need a little more time, but I think that’ll come pretty quick. In the 90-minute game just at the very end when I had to do a few full field runs, I was gassed. But as far as how long I’ve sat out and where I’ve been, I feel really good.”
  • Said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear: “[Davis] got that 90 minutes against Dallas in the last preseason game, and with another week of training he’ll get a little sharper. The good thing is the weather in LA this time of year is pretty cool and you can extend minutes that way. It also depends on how good he feels leading up to this week. But you’re always better when Brad’s playing and hopefully we can get as many minutes as we can out of him.”
  • The match at Chivas USA starts a season-opening seven-game road trip for the Dynamo, while their new BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston is being completed.
  • “You go on the road and sometimes there are tough places to play and teams always play well at home,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “So the biggest thing is, we’re not going to have a game at home in the middle of a tough stretch to get back to form. We’re going to have to be sharp from the start on the road, because we don’t want to go into our home games way behind other teams.”
  • Last year, Sporting KC went 1-6-3 while awaiting the opening of their new Livestrong Sporting Park – but ended up hosting the Eastern Conference Championship there (and losing to Houston). The Dynamo were winless in their first 15 away matches in 2011, but were unbeaten over their last four and won their final three.
  • “There’s definitely some confidence from the way we ended last year going into [this stretch], but with that said, the most important game is the one coming up,” Boswell said. “We’re not worried about the seventh game in this stretch or the May home opener. We’re looking at March 11 against Chivas USA. If we can go out there and get a good result it will start us off well for the year.”

OFFSEASON TRANSACTIONS

  • IN: M Nathan Sturgis (12/29: trade from Toronto); F Colin Rolfe (1/12: SuperDraft); M Warren Creavalle (1/12: SuperDraft); F Brian Ownby (1/17: supplemental draft); F Karo Okiomah (1/17: supplemental draft); M Eder Arreola (1/17: supplemental draft); F Phillip Aseweh (1/17: supplemental draft); M Daniel Roberts (1/17: supplemental draft); F/M Macoumba Kandji (2/8: trade from Colorado); F Brian Ching (2/16: trade from Montreal); G Erich Marscheider (2/22: waiver wire)
  • OUT: M Francisco Navas Cobo (11/23: waived); G Evan Newton (11/23: waived); F Carlo Costly (11/24: option declined); D Hunter Freeman (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Colorado); F Jason Garey (12/12: option declined); D Eddie Robinson (1/11: retired); M Danny Cruz (1/20: trade to D.C.)