CARSON, Calif. – It’s a little too early in the season to have injury concerns, but that’s exactly what Chivas USA are looking at this weekend.
They’ll face a surging Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live), and it seems likely they’ll be doing so without their two most experienced attackers in Juan Pablo Ángel and Alejandro Moreno.
After training on Thursday, Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser confirmed that it was “still touch and go with both guys” and classified them as “day-to-day decisions.”
Ángel (above right) was held out of training on Thursday due to what Fraser referred to as “just a little bit of precautionary measures with concussion protocol.”
REPLAY: Ángel rattles the post
The issue first surfaced during the club’s preseason tournament in Portland when the Colombian veteran knocked heads with Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner.
The forward battled through the issue last Sunday, even earning several dangerous scoring chances as the Rojiblancos fell 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo. And while Ángel was unable to train on Thursday, he admitted that his condition was improving.
“It’s been bothering me since when I head the ball, when I don’t [tense] the muscles,” Ángel told reporters on Thursday. “I had a word with the doctor [because of the protocol]. He said, 'Let’s take a couple of days and see.' I’ll take it easy until tomorrow and then we’ll address it from there.”
Like Ángel, Moreno is still dealing with complications surrounding an injury that goes back to the Portland tournament. The gritty forward-turned-midfielder broke his nose in the match against AIK and has been on the mend ever since.
After undergoing surgery, Moreno strapped on a face mask in hopes of returning to the field for the season opener. But after failing to make an appearance last Sunday, the Venezuelan veteran decided to take part in Chivas USA’s reserve match against USL PRO side LA Blues on Monday.
It was against the Blues that disaster struck once more as Moreno collided with Erlys Garcia while defending a corner kick, resulting in yet another broke nose. The injury did not prevent Moreno from finishing out the match, but now after his second nose surgery in two weeks, the typically unyielding forward has decided to slow down his recovery.
“Conversations with the doctors have been, ‘Let’s see next week,’ which means it will probably be Tuesday or Wednesday before I go back to the doctor,” Moreno told reporters on Thursday. “Then we’ll make a decision in terms of how it’s progressing and how the healing has taken place. Obviously, that I’ve broken it twice in the last week sets us back a little bit so we’ll see.
As he looks to get back on the field in the next couple of weeks, Moreno has once again resorted to wearing a mask, but has yet to return to full contact drills.
“It’s not comfortable,” said Moreno. “It’s not natural, but I try to wear it even when I’m not partaking in some of the training that is going on, just simply to make it second nature. Hopefully by the time that I’m able to go back into contact drills, I’ll be comfortable enough that it is no issue.”
Always the fierce competitor, Moreno can’t help but admit being frustrated with being told to stay away from the physical play that has become his trademark. But regardless of the injury, Moreno has no interest in holding back once he returns to full strength.
“Essentially, the way that I’ve played my whole career, it lends itself to contact and I don’t shy away from it and I’m not about to start now,” said Moreno. “It’s very difficult because part of what has made me successful in the past is that I’m willing to put myself in situations that allow me to get on the end of things. I’m not able to do that. It is part of what I like to do, but right now it’s being held back.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org