CARSON, Calif. — What a difference a few days make for Chivas USA.
The Goats put on two polar opposite performances against a pair of expansion sides over the course of four days last week. Against the Vancouver Whitecaps last Wednesday, the Rojiblancos failed to hold a lead for the fourth consecutive instance and even struggled to generate offense while up a man for much of the second half.
They bounced back against the Portland Timbers last Saturday, showing the energetic side that head coach Robin Fraser has sought to create in his first year in charge. Chivas USA went 1-0-1 during their two-game homestand and will now prepare for a match against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Here are three things we learned about Chivas USA after their match with the Portland Timbers:
Aggressive mind set at home is starting to develop.
The message on the locker room whiteboard was clear after Chivas' victory over the Timbers: “The fight was excellent!”
Following calls of complacency in three straight winless matches, the Rojiblancos were able to fire back against Portland, consistently creating chances and dominating possession in earning their second victory at home in 2011.
This change in play was due in part to the injection of several key players who have been absent over the past few weeks. Most effective on the night was goal-scoring hero Marcos Mondaini, who frequently put himself into dangerous positions and worked well with forward partner Justin Braun. With Mondaini providing the catalyst, the Rojiblancos provided an intensity that had not been seen much at home in 2011.
“The win is most important, but I’m most excited about is our aggressive mind set from the beginning,” said Fraser. “We have not always seen that at home and I felt like tonight, the way we came out and played was exactly the way we need to play.”
Chivas USA are finally starting to return to full strength.
Against Portland, Chivas returned several key players from injury and suspension — one of those being midfield general Paulo Nagamura, who made his first start since April 16. The Brazilian’s presence on the ball was vital for the Rojiblancos in their victory as his passing helped set up forays forward, including Mondaini’s goal.
Youngster Blair Gavin was the other midfield returnee, making his first appearance since March 26.
“This gives us depth, which is extremely important coming into the grueling summer months where the season keeps going and going,” said Gavin. “If you got five or six midfielders it helps your team, you sub in someone and they bring the intensity of a starter. It’s great for us.”
The table position doesn’t matter ... yet.
From Day 1, Fraser has preached steady growth for Chivas USA, but has not hid his obvious ambition to turn the Rojiblancos into a playoff side. With a series of solid results in the few weeks, they have climbed the table and currently sit in sixth place in the rough Western Conference, and in eighth overall.
But according to Fraser, that's not on his radar yet.
“I haven’t paid much attention to the points at this point because we’re so focused on where we’re trying to get to in terms of how we play," he said. "I feel like if we play, then the points will be a by-product of that. At this point of the year, I can say that, but in September, I’ll be looking at the points very closely.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano