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Chivas defense tries to remain stingy

It has not been easy to score on Chivas USA.

The Red-and-White have had the second-best defense in the league over the course of the last four years, allowing an average of just 35.5 goals per season since 2006. Only Houston has done better, allowing an average of 31 goals per season in that time.

Now, as the club transitions to a new head coach, Chivas USA's stingy defenders are looking to maintain their reputation as some of the toughest in MLS.

"It's going well back there," said defender Kevin Tangney, Chivas USA's third-round pick in this year's SuperDraft. "We lost some players last year, but there are a bunch coming in this year that are very high quality players. It's been very competitive, and I think we'll be able to fill the gaps from last year and previous years."

The Red-and-White will likely have to reshuffle some of their backline after losing three center backs in the last five months. Bobby Burling was traded to San Jose in September, Shavar Thomas was taken by Philadelphia in the expansion draft in November and Jim Curtin was waived by the club on Jan. 28.

"Of course it's going to be a different group," said Jonathan Bornstein. "We have different guys and a different mentality as a team. It's just going to take a little more time to get used to it."

Bornstein is one of the returning faces to the Chivas USA backline. He is joined by 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Zach Thornton, and veterans Mariano Trujillo, Carey Talley, Ante Jazic and Claudio Suarez.

The Red-and-White defensive corps has been joined by a host of trialists this preseason. Draft pick Tangney is joined by Emilio Viades, Matt McManus, Miguel Sanchez, Carlos Borja and Michael Umaña, all of whom have experience in either the USA or Central America.

"It's a very diverse group back there, but soccer is universal," said Tangney. "It's easy to adjust. We've been together throughout this whole process, and we're getting to know each other's tendencies. It's been very good so far."

All of Chivas USA's defensive newcomers saw time in the team's 5-1 victory against Loyola Marymount University on Thursday, and the squad's fluidity and organization looks to be improving.

"I think [the game] went very well," said Tangney. "We were able to possess for most of the second half and make Loyola run. We opened up a lot of space on the sides for some services. I think guys connected really well, especially with the forwards coming back for the second ball."

With more than a month until opening day of the 2010 season, the Red-and-White still have plenty of time to adapt to any new faces in the defensive corps. And if history is any indicator, it will be another year of stingy defense for Chivas USA.

"It's going to take a little more time to get used to it," said Bornstein. "There are guys that we haven't played with before, so you don't know exactly what to expect, but I thought the game [against LMU] was a good indication of what is was going to be like. We'll see where we go from here."

Jeffrey King is a contributor to MLSnet.com.