Chivas USA’s 2010 MLS season starts this Friday evening with the team hosting the Colorado Rapids at the Home Depot Center.
As the Red-and-White prepare for the club’s sixth season, here are five things that will be worth carrying over from 2009 if the team is to make a real run at the MLS Cup this year:
1. The Defense
It was hard to score on Chivas USA in 2009. The team allowed just 31 goals from 30 games, good enough for the league’s second-best mark. Perhaps even more incredible is the fact that the Goats secured 13 shutouts last season. Twelve of those 13 were credited to 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Zach Thornton, which gave him two more than his nearest competitors. Not too shabby. If Chivas can remain stingy in the back line, they’ll be in good shape to make another run at the playoffs.
2. The First Nine Weeks
The Red-and-White got off to a blistering start last year, earning a club-record 7-1-1 record in their first nine games. The team claimed an amazing 22 out of 27 possible points during their rapid ascent to the top of the Western Conference. Repeating that feat would be a difficult task indeed, but if Chivas USA can get out of the gates with the same luster it did last year, the young roster will be bristling with confidence heading into the meat of the season.
3. The Seattle Who?
Seattle may have been the hotshot new team in MLS last year, but they had nothing on Chivas USA. The Red-and-White dominated the Sounders all season, taking seven points from three meetings with their rivals to the north. The feat is even more impressive when you consider that Seattle finished the regular season with 47 points, good enough for third-highest in all of MLS. Remaining undefeated against Fredy Montero & Co. this season would go a long way toward helping Chivas USA battle for control of the Western Conference.
4. The Postseason
Although Chivas USA seem unable to break through the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs, at least the Red-and-White make it to the postseason. Chivas USA has qualified for the postseason in four of its first five seasons, missing out on November soccer in the club’s inaugural 2005 season. The team has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, a feat equaled in the Western Conference by only the Houston Dynamo. So before we talk about MLS Cup for Chivas, first they need to make it to a fifth consecutive postseason.
5. The 20-Minute Mark
Chivas USA only conceded two goals all season within the first 20 minutes of a match. And the two goals they did concede in that span both came in a single match at Colorado with the team’s third goalkeeper in net. If Chivas can continue to lock down their defense early, the Goats will be in with a chance to win several games this year.