CARSON, Calif. — Depth up top has been a major issue for Chivas USA in 2011, and it's about to get tested once again as the Rojiblancos prepare for life without forward Marcos Mondaini.
On Thursday morning, MLS suspended Mondani for four matches (which includes the automatic one-game suspension for receiving a red card) and fined the Argentine $1,500 for a tackle that severely injured Real Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales.
The suspension means Mondaini will be unavailable for selection until the Goats travel to Robertson Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo on June 11. The Argentine had become a fixture in the Chivas USA lineup after being brought in during the offseason, starting alongside veteran Alejandro Moreno.
With a number of key matches on the horizon, Moreno admitted that the Rojiblancos have no time to dwell on the loss of Mondaini.
"It's a shame that we lose him for an extended period of time because he's a player that was becoming an important part of what we were doing offensively," said Moreno. "Now we just move forward. We really have no time and no chance for us to dwell on whether guys are on the field or not.”
Without Mondaini, head coach Robin Fraser must now turn to his bench as the Rojiblancos search for offense. 2011 draft pick Victor Estupiñán and forward Justin Braun represent the most likely options for a Chivas USA side that has struggled at times to created offense this year.
Estupiñán has struggled to find the net in his first MLS season after making a bold declaration that he’d score 30 goals this year. The Ecuadorian has started several matches this season, but he does not appear ready to deal with the physical nature of MLS. With the newcomer still in need of experience, it’s likely that the forward duties will fall to Braun.
Braun spent a considerable time out wide earlier in the year, but the club's leading scorer of 2010 performed well coming on as a substitute for Mondaini in a recent victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Though the circumstances are far from ideal, the forward is ready to make the most of his opportunity.
"Hopefully I can take this chance and run with it," Braun said. "It's unfortunate that he'll be suspended. Hopefully the team can regroup and keep moving forward just like we've been going."
Though the Mondaini suspension will leave Chivas shorthanded in the attack, Moreno remains bullish that the team can recover, no matter the adversity. And that starts with Sunday’s match against the New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET; Galavisión).
“We just need to pick up the pieces, see who is available and try to make the best of it with the guys that we have on the field," Moreno said. "We have enough guys who are willing to put in the work and sacrifice in order to get a result this Saturday."