2014 Chivas USA Preview: Winds of change blowing through StubHub Center | Armchair Analyst
CSKA Chivas: "Club Still Known As" Chivas. Get it? OK, let's forget stupid puns for a second and just address the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Everything about this club is in limbo for the foreseeable future. After it purchased the club back from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes last week, MLS could find a new buyer next week or next year – nobody knows – and with that will likely come an epic housecleaning.
Plugging up the sieve: Dan Kennedy's got himself a nice 1,000-yard stare and a case of PTSD after spending last season as a target dummy for the rest of the league. Chivas were putrid defensively, conceding a league-worst 67 times. They were particularly vulnerable up their own left flank, which happens to be the one spot that wasn't addressed this offseason.
It's a blend: Right now, you could look at the roster and make an argument that Chivas are an old team, with as many as seven from the 30-plus crowd possibly figuring in the starting XI. But chances are it'll be more of a blend, especially with youngsters Carlos Alvarez, Tommy McNamara and – assuming he stays – Erick "Cubo" Torres looking solid in attack.
Star Attraction: Mauro Rosales
OK, so he's old, having just turned 33 this week. But he's still a top-shelf chance creator both from the run of play and from restarts (enjoy that GIF, folks). And now that he's playing on grass instead of turf, there's some real hope the injuries that plagued him during his Seattle days will be, more or less, a thing of the past.
Expect new boss Wilmer Cabrera to try to structure the team's attack around Rosales' gifts. That means lots of interchanging and diagonals, and decoy checks from the center forward instead of actual hard checks for service.
In other words: Mauro is the fulcrum. Do your job, and he will find you.
Probable Formation: 4-4-2
GK: Dan Kennedy
RB: Eric Avila
CD: Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Carlos Bocanegra
LB: Marky Delgado
RM: Mauro Rosales
DM: Oswaldo Minda
CM: Agustín Pelletieri
LM: Tommy McNamara
FWDs: Erick Torres, Luke Moore
Major Acquisition: Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Jean-Baptiste was a 20-year-old starting in central defense for the league's second-best defensive team for most of 2013. That is good.
Then he fell out of the starting lineup and just kept falling, far enough in Portland's estimation that he became expendable. Read between the lines – the Timbers say they want "leaders at every spot" – and it seems to point to maturity issues.
If Cabrera (with a big assist from Carlos Bocanegra) can help AJB figure that out, then Chivas have a guy with arguably the most upside of any central defender in the league. If it doesn't get figured out, then get ready for lots of Bobby Burling.
SEE MORE: Transaction page
What He Said
The good thing is: This is a brand new team this year. Obviously, there’s some returning guys, but as a whole, this a brand new team, and it’s a whole new season. Right now, we’re in first place with everybody else. Once the season starts, we’re going to try to keep it that way.
Fantasy Pick: Dan Kennedy ($4.5m) – It's rare to find a starting goalkeeper priced at less than $5 million. Then again, this whole team is loaded with potential bargains. With all of its players priced at $8.0m or less, there are several players here who could bring you a nice return on your initial investment. (Teams selected by: 23.2%.)
The best-case scenario for this team is that the youngsters collectively make the same leap New England's youngsters made in 2013, that the veterans stay healthy, and that Cabrera turns out to be as good a coach as I think he is (and I think he's legit). But even if all that happens, I can't for the life of me picture Chivas – and we really do need something else we can call them – making the playoffs. The West is just too loaded, and three of the four backline spots remain "questionable" if we're being charitable.
So they're going to ship some goals. Unlike last year, they're going to score a bunch as well, even if Cubo heads back down south come June. And for a team that's repeatedly had the rug pulled out, that's got to be considered progress.