CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA are preparing for one of their biggest games of the season against the archrivals LA Galaxy (Sunday, 6 pm ET, ESPN/ESPN Desportes), but problems along the backline may throw a wrench in their plans.
For a team that once enjoyed defensive stability, injuries to key players over the last few months have caused Chivas to shuffle their back four repeatedly. But amid the injuries is a sliver of hope: Heath Pearce may be ready to make a return to the field after battling back from a hamstring injury that cost him a month.
“I'm feeling pretty good and I've been getting lots of touches on the ball and I'm starting to open up my stride,” Pearce told MLSsoccer.com. “It's a matter of how I feel. If I feel like I can play, then I'm going to make the case to play. There's always important games, no matter what the situation. This is a team that pays me to play, so if you're fit to play, then you play.”
On Thursday, Pearce participated in full training, playing center back for an intra-squad scrimmage and providing service from the left flank during finishing drills.
Following training, head coach Robin Fraser stated that Pearce was “day-by-day” and will continue to be evaluated in the lead up to Sunday's SuperClásico (9 pm ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Should Pearce be ruled unfit to play, it's likely that defenders Andrew Boyens and David Júnior Lopes will compose the center-back pairing against the Galaxy.
Although Pearce's playing time appears uncertain, one player who will definitely not feature is versatile center back-turned-right back Michael Umaña. The defender picked up a left knee injury during Costa Rica's 1-0 loss to Brazil last week that may cost him the final two games of the season.
With Umaña out, the door is open for a number of options, as as rookie Zarek Valentin, Mariano Trujillo and Michael Lahoud have each seen time at the position in the past.
Uncertainty may reign for Chivas at the moment, but for Fraser, a strong finish to the season is instrumental.
“That's what it is [like] every day; when other guys go down, then others may get an opportunity,” he said. “People just need to be ready.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.