OXNARD, Calif. — With one preseason game under their belts, there are a number of positive signs for Chivas USA. However, there are also a number of kinks to be worked out before the club opens the season in six weeks.
In their first match of their preseason, the Rojiblancos fell to PDL side Ventura County Fusion 1-0 on a blustery Friday on the campus of Oxnard College. The game featured a pair of 30-minute halves with both first-teamers and trialists, but strong winds left players struggling to generate a rhythm.
It was with the aid of the wind that Chivas nearly took the lead when a Michael Lahoud cross was carried on frame and forced a palm save from Fusion goalkeeper Sam Hayden.
The wind was not the only factor that marred the game for Chivas, as Fraser's club dealt with injuries in the first and second halves. Near the 20-minute mark, midfielder Marvin Iraheta was recipient of a hard challenge that forced him from the match with an apparent left knee injury after a promising start alongside Peter Vanegas. In the 45th minute, the injury bug struck another Chivas player, as trialist defender Mario Ledezma went down after taking a wrong step on a run and had to be helped off the field.
The wind caused greater havoc in the second half, and the Fusion then opened up the scoring when Hagop Chirishian found the back of the net.
Chivas nearly leveled late when academy product Ben Spencer found himself alone on goal but was unable to put away his chance.
Despite the result, after two weeks of training, head coach Robin Fraser admitted that he was pleased with where his club stands.
“We had clear cut things that we wanted to get to, and to be clear, we want to win every game,” Fraser told reporters. “But in terms of specific objectives with the team, it was good. We got our fitness in, a basis for how we want to think as a team, and those were the biggest things. The offensive things are going to come, that always takes more time, but we wanted to make sure that we were solid in how we approach things and we want to make sure that we continue to get stronger. ”
Valencia earns rave reviews in first match
One of the bright spots of the match against the Fusion was the performance of burly Colombian defender John Alexander Valencia.
Starting alongside Rauwshan McKenzie in the first half, Valencia appeared more than capable against a Fusion attack led by Serbian league headliner Danny Barrera, who currently plays for Spartak Zlatibor Voda.
After his first full week with the club, Valencia was sharp throughout the match, routinely cutting off dangerous forays forward from the Fusion while also helping organize Chivas USA’s back four.
“For the first game, he looked engaged and comfortable with the other guys on the backline,” said assistant coach and fellow Colombian Carlos Llamosa after the match. “Even if he doesn’t speak English, he was making sure that everyone around him understood and he could understand them. I thought that he looked good today.”
Gavin to return, Bolaños en route
Chivas expect to add a number of players to the fold when they reconvene next week at the Home Depot Center.
Midfielder Blair Gavin, who has missed the first two weeks of the preseason due to personal reasons, is expected to join the club on Monday. Drafted 10th overall in 2010, the midfielder from Akron has struggled with injuries during his first two seasons in MLS. A nagging hamstring injury limited him to only 18 appearances and three assists in 2011.
Also, Ecuadorian midfielder Miller Bolaños obtained his P-1 visa on Friday and is expected to join the club shortly. Bolaños is one of three South American pickups for Chivas USA this offseason.
Both Valencia and Ecuadorian midfielder Oswaldo Minda arrived at camp Monday and Friday, respectively.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org