CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA have shown throughout the season that they can battle through adversity.
The Rojiblancos have had their ups and downs while working through a season-long overhaul, but no match provided more to their development than the last time they faced Real Salt Lake.
In their last meeting, Chivas USA finished the match down to nine men, but still nearly stole a point at Rio Tinto in a match that was marred by midfielder Marcos Mondaini’s ankle-breaking tackle on Javier Morales. Throughout their game in Rio Tinto, the young Rojiblancos defense, led by Heath Pearce and Dan Kennedy, held a motivated Salt Lake side for 87 minutes before Will Johnson finally broke through with the game-winner.
Since the Salt Lake match, Kennedy’s timely saves and Pearce’s leadership have provided the backbone for the Goats defense. Although Morales’ injury grabbed the headlines, head coach Robin Fraser believes the fight his team showed against RSL was one of the true hallmarks for his squad — something he wants to see on display again on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“That was a young team that was just getting formed,” said Fraser. “It’s one of those things that it’s given us strength in situations throughout the year that we can compete in any situation. For us, it was a positive in spite of the fact that we lost. At that point, it was important that we were able to get that feeling and I think it served us well throughout the season.”
When the Goats take on RSL, they will once again have their backs to the wall — this time needing a victory to remain in the playoff race. Frustrated with their inability to pull out a point against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, Chivas will hope to get back to their winning ways in their first match at home in over a month. They’re coming off a five-game road trip that they finished with a 1-2-2 record, leaving them one point out of the final playoff spot.
The Goats will be short-handed against RSL as midfielder Paulo Nagamura underwent surgery on Thursday after breaking his fifth metatarsal in the match against Portland. Meanwhile, right back Zarek Valentin is out with a left quadriceps injury while his replacement at right back, Mike Lahoud, is day-to-day with an ankle injury suffered in the loss to Portland.
Despite all the absences, there was good news as Fraser said on Friday that forward Juan Pablo Ángel would be available for selection against RSL.
The Claret-and-Cobalt come to the Home Depot Center eager for a victory after two consecutive defeats, but could be bolstered by the return of defender Jámison Olave, who has missed a month with a left MCL strain. Despite their recent struggles, Fraser believes RSL are still the same quality team they were several months ago, saying the “hype about what’s wrong with Real Salt Lake” is “ridiculous.”
Hype or not, Fraser will hope that his Chivas team — a group that’s not so young anymore — is able to show the same fight as last time against RSL. And this time, get a different result.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano