For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing Chivas USA's 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. Kennedy, 2. Melia, 3. Rowe/Mclain/Guppy
Strengths: Dan Kennedy blossomed into one of the finest goalkeepers in the league in 2011, enjoying a Goalkeeper of the Year-type season and routinely making key saves to keep the Rojiblancos in games.
Weaknesses: Kennedy was healthy last season, but injuries ravaged the talented goalkeeper over the past several years. If Kennedy were to pick up an injury, Tim Melia is a relatively untested backup.
Wildcard: Melia may be untested, but the 25-year-old 'keeper has earned acclaim for his composure in the net this preseason. Meanwhile, the third goalkeeper spot has been in flux throughout the offseason. Currently, Supplemental Draft pick Brian Rowe and trialists Patrick McLain and Kevin Guppy are fighting for the spot behind Melia.
READ: 2012 Chivas USA Preview
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Riley, 2. Lahoud; CB: 1. Pearce – Valencia, 2. McKenzie, 3. Júnior Lopes; LB: 1. Jazic, 2. Villafaña
Strengths: Chivas boast a quality back four led by US international Heath Pearce, who will be playing his second full season at the center back position. To bolster the back line, Fraser added a pair of veterans in Colombian center back John Alexander Valencia and right back James Riley. They'll be needed to settle a defense that struggled at times last season.
Weaknesses: Behind a solid first four, Chivas’ depth is still a question mark. In his first season with the club, David Júnior Lopes was prone to mental lapses that put his side in difficult positions on the field. Rauwshan McKenzie is a capable backup, but the 25-year-old center back has made only 11 appearances during his four years in MLS.
Wildcard: Jorge Villafaña (formerly Flores) has continued to earn call-ups to the US Under-23 side, but he has yet to lock down a spot in the Rojiblancos back line. Motivated by a potential ticket to London, Villafaña’s high work rate could allow “Sueno” to push Ante Jazic for a starting position along the left side of the defense.
SEE: Preseason Schedule
Depth Chart: LM 1. Smith, 2. Courtois, 3. Villafaña; CM 1. Minda, 2. LaBrocca, 3. Bolaños; 4. Zemanski, 5. Gavin, 6. Vagenas; RM 1. Lahoud, 2. Gavin
Strengths: The deepest spot on the team, Fraser has brought in an impressive haul of midfielders, comprising a group that may be as talented as any in MLS. Fraser’s midfield triangle, which features two defensive midfielders and a more attack-minded midfielder behind a lone striker, appears to have energized wide players such as Mike Lahoud and Ryan Smith, who have been dangerous throughout the preseason.
Weaknesses: If the midfield has a weakness, it may be that they have too many players in the center of the park and simply not enough positions in the starting lineup. Talented youngsters Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin may face extended minutes on the bench due to the club’s depth at midfield.
Wildcard: Pete Vagenas, the former “Mr. Galaxy," may not be popular with Chivas supporters just yet, but the MLS veteran is looking to do what he can to earn the affection of his new fans. A talented organizer, the 34-year-old is expected to bring a calming presence to the midfield rotation. Vagenas' impact will not be found solely on the field, though, as the 12-year veteran is expected to play a major leadership role for Chivas’ bushel of young midfielders.
Depth Chart: 1. Ángel, 2. Moreno, 3. Townsend, 4. Romero, 5. Cortez
Strengths: Juan Pablo Ángel remains the jewel of the group. After arriving from the Galaxy midseason, he went on scoring spree, tallying in seven of nine games for the Rojiblancos. The veteran Colombian is another year older, but has been spry throughout the preseason.
Weaknesses: The forward group may be talented, but the drop off between the starters and the bench is a steep one. Ángel and Alejandro Moreno remain solid options up top, but Casey Townsend, Cesar Romero and Chris Cortez – while talented – remain unproven at the professional level.
Wildcard: Townsend has impressed this preseason since returning from a hamstring injury. Drawing rave reviews for his nose for goal and intensity on the practice field, the former Maryland striker is a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate. Also, Romero – a former US youth international who was most recently playing arena soccer in Tijuana – is another intriguing prospect up top.