CARSON, Calif. – Once more, Chivas USA hit the road in search of their first victory of the season.
While sitting at the bottom of the MLS table, Chivas USA are currently on a three-match unbeaten streak, having only given up two goals in their last four matches. A main reason for this run of defensive success has been the leadership of defender Heath Pearce and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Kennedy, an MLS Best XI selection this week, has been dominant between the pipes and has come up with a string of big saves to keep the Rojiblancos in games. He’ll need to be on his game facing an Earthquakes attack that boasts 2010 Golden Boot-winner Chris Wondolowski and successful newcomer Simon Dawkins.
The biggest key will be stopping Wondolowski, who scored four goals against the Rojiblancos last year, including three in the Buck Shaw leg of the series.
"They're a good group. They're very comfortable on the ball and they'll make a lot of things happen for them,” said Chivas head coach Robin Fraser. “They're an extremely formidable team with a lot of different types of players, which I feel is key to making a team successful.”
Justin Braun will likely play a key role for Chivas USA as they look for their first victory. The team's leading goal scorer last year has not tallied yet this season, but has found the net four times in his career against San Jose. Braun did not play with the regulars this week in intra-squad scrimmages, as he is still recovering from a slight groin strain.
The Rojiblancos will bring 27 players to San Jose as the team’s reserve side will take on the Earthquakes reserves during the weekend. As has been the story with Chivas USA throughout 2011, perhaps more important than who is on the trip is who isn’t.
Not with the team are Michael Lahoud and Jimmy Conrad, who are both battling concussions. Lahoud suffered his while knocking heads with midfielder Nick LaBrocca last week in the scoreless draw with Vancouver.
Also not expected to play a part in the match is Paulo Nagamura. The defensive midfielder battled back from a calf strain to play 30 minutes against the Whitecaps but lightly re-injured his calf in the result. It is a minor setback, but Fraser does not expect Nagamura's injury to be serious.
In spite of the injury, Fraser is optimistic that his team is ready for the challenges that San Jose will pose for the Rojiblancos.
“It'll be a tough game for us," said Fraser. "We've been improving and different teams pose different challenges so I'd like to think that we're ready.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSSoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano