CARSON, Calif. – A series of mistakes prevented Chivas USA from opening the Robin Fraser era with a victory last weekend, but the Rojiblancos are confident that a result can be had in their second match.
Standing in Chivas' way on Saturday are the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids (10:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live). The team that will take on the Rapids is one that is missing a number of key players due to injury (Simon Elliott, Paulo Nagamura) and international call-ups (Zarek Valentin, Alejandro Moreno and others).
Without these vital players, it’s likely that youngsters Victor Estupinan, Seth Owusu and Tristan Bowen may make their first starts for Chivas USA.
While call-ups may have done a number on the team, Fraser remains bullish that his squad can overcome.
"It is what it is, doesn't make sense crying woe is me over it because these guys have opporutunties to represent their country, and that's a great honor," Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. "We have to make due with what we got and that's why we don't have 14 guys on the team, we have 26. Everyone needs to understand everyone's roles and that's part of having a system. You can take guys out and plug guys in."
Chivas USA are not alone missing players. Colorado will be missing Jamaican forward Omar Cummings and Gambian midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who were both called up to international duty. In the Rojiblancos own forward line, the absence of Moreno creates an opening for perhaps, a player with a different style to take the field.
[inline_node:327532]Young players like Bowen and Estupiñán (at right) will likely play along the flanks with Justin Braun moving to the center forward spot. Playing these two youngsters outwide gives Fraser a chance to use their speed going forward to try to put pressure on the Rapids defense.
"We were looking at a lot of different guys with different attributes like power, pace and skill," said Fraser.
While international call-ups may be the biggest story, the return of midfielder Blair Gavin to near full fitness represents a serious boost for Chivas USA. The playmaking midfielder was hampered by a hamstring strain during the winter, which pushed him to the bench for much of the offseason. He was able to play a small part in the match against Sporting Kansas City, coming on as a second half substitute.
In a scrimmage that the club had earlier in the week against local college side Loyola Marymount, Gavin was his usual influential self in the attack. He created a number of opportunities going forward with his high energy play and skillful distribution.
After the match against LMU and limited action on Saturday, Gavin is hungry for an expanded role on Saturday.
"I think that I'll be able to play on Saturday because I'm slowly getting my game fitness back," said Gavin. "I don't want to go from 30 minutes to a start, you need to go from 30 to 45 minutes and hopefully 60 minutes and 90 minutes will come soon."
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSSoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano