CARSON, Calif. – No matter the date, the opposition or the stakes, Portland has not been kind to Chivas USA. Over the past two years, the Goats have had their struggles in Oregon as they have gone a combined 0-4-1 in all competitions – including US Open Cup and a recent preseason tournament.
With that in mind, Chivas head coach Robin Fraser believes that his players will find a way to rise to occasion on Saturday when his side returns to JELD-WEN Field for a date with the Timbers (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
“At the end of the day, if you’re a competitive athlete, then you deal with adversity and you rise above whatever the conditions may be that create that adversity,” said Fraser. “You have to be prepared to overcome; Portland in of itself presents a challenge. They’ve made improvements over the last year. They’ve brought in some even better players and they have a year of cohesiveness under their belt. That’s a very good team and they present a stern challenge.”
To overcome that challenge and light a fire under an offense that has scored just one goal in four matches, Fraser has preached aggression all week. He’s had his club has focus on finishing and creating chances – a necessity for a side that tallied zero shots on goal during last week’s 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
One player who appears to have taken the coaches’ advice to heart is been midfielder Blair Gavin. The 23-year-old (pictured above) returned to full training last week after a recovering from a hamstring injury that had him on the sidelines since mid-February.
His reappearance came with a bang. Gavin has impressed, pulling the strings in the midfield during the club’s Reserve League victory over the LA Galaxy on Monday while notching an assist in the process. With right midfielder Michael Lahoud likely out for another week with his own hamstring injury, Gavin is an option to revitalize Chivas’ struggling attack.
“Blair’s doing well and his hamstring seems to be over the hump now,” said Fraser. “We want to be as sure as possible with Blair, and I feel like he’s really taken some strides and he’s certainly looking sharp.”
Added fire in the attack, be it from Gavin or someone else, will be welcome, as Chivas are once again likely to be without the services of veteran forward Juan Pablo Ángel due to concussion symptoms.
With or without the star striker, though, Fraser believes that his side is poised for an offensive breakout against the Timbers.
“This is a determined group ... and they’re not happy with what our results have been so far,” said Fraser. “We don’t feel that they truly reflect on who we can be as a team. I think a lot of guys are playing with chips on their shoulders right now.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org