CARSON, Calif. – A week after defeating Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, the road doesn't get any easier for Chivas USA as they take on undefeated Sporting Kansas City at The Home Depot Center.
On Sunday, Chivas will attempt to earn their second straight victory by slowing down a high-octane Sporting attack led by the impressive attacking troika of C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi and Kei Kamara. And although the Rojiblancos are flying high after their victory against RSL, head coach Robin Fraser knows that his charges are in for a dogfight against the league’s lone 3-0-0 team.
“Sporting is a physical team. There will be a lot of physical challenges and we’ve got to be prepared for that and match it or better it,” said Fraser. “They’re big and powerful, certainly there are going to be physical challenges to be dealt with and second balls to be dealt with.
WATCH: Chivas USA shock RSL 1-0
“They’re aggressive. They’re aggressive in the way that they move and they will get not only their big guys forward, but get a lot of people into their attack.”
To deal with Sporting’s physical threat, the Rojiblancos may call upon Alejandro Moreno, their resident hard-man who appears set to return to game-day availability and potentially the starting XI. Following two surgeries in less than a week to repair his twice broken nose, the Venezuelan striker has returned to full training and went 45 minutes during Chivas’ 5-0 scrimmage victory against FC Hasental on Thursday.
Moreno has returned to the field with one noticeable accessory—a face mask that protects the Venezuelan’s nose and allows him to partake in his trademark physical play. Although wearing the mask has been a difficult adjustment, the veteran is simply happy to return to the field.
“I’ve been doing it for two or two-and-a-half weeks. I feel more comfortable with it,” Moreno recently told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m just happy to be back and having full contact drills and being a part of what the group is doing on a daily basis.
“I’m not planning to wear it indefinitely, initially it is four to six weeks and then we’ll see how I feel with it. A lot of it, will do with how successful we are with it. If we’re winning, the mask stays on. But if we’re not, it’ll come off really quick.”
The 32-year-old forward believes that he can start off his tenure as a masked man with a win on Sunday.
“We know that they’re an aggressive team with an aggressive mindset,” said Moreno. “We know that if we’re smart and able to knock the ball around, then we’ll try take advantage of that aggressiveness by exploiting the space created by their attack.”
But the question remains, just where could Moreno be used on the field? With Juan Pablo Angel likely out for a third week in a row, one place that he may be used is up top. Throughout the preseason, though, Moreno had been used primarily in the midfield, and rookie forward Casey Townsend tallied the club’s lone goal in their victory over RSL.
Moreno started up front during the first half against Hasental for the first time since the start of the preseason and made an immediate impact, creating several dangerous opportunities for the Rojiblancos. When asked if the start signaled a return to his role up top, the wily striker turned midfielder just smiled.
“Don’t call it a comeback.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.