Over the next seven days, we're taking a brief pause from relentless battles against Eastern Conference foes. We'll face the Portland Timbers on the road next Saturday, but first Chivas USA at RFK Stadium tomorrow night.
We can't blame you if you haven't watched a whole lot of matches featuring Chivas this season. I mean, why would you? So to catch up, we traded questions with someone who has actually had the misfortune of watching lots of Chivas matches this season. Here's Alicia Ratterree of The Goat Parade with the answers to our most pertinent questions.
B&RU: On the opposite coast, many of us don't really care about Chivas USA, because we've never had to. So for those less informed, give us a short synopsis of the coaching and ownership situations.
Based on the way the season is going on and off the field, you're catching me at my most jaded, but here goes. The Goats are on a four game losing streak and an eight game winless streak, so belief in the current system is at a low point at the moment. Robin Fraser has been at the helm for almost two seasons, and a similar pattern has emerged in both campaigns: a slow start to the season, a strong middle third, and a collapse at the end of the year. When it happened in the first season, it could be chalked up to a coach learning the ropes and not having a roster of "his" guys yet. But the slide this season has raised questions that maybe the development has not come as quickly as it should.
Adding to the intrigue came the news a few weeks back (that was announced *during* a Chivas USA game, no less) that Jorge Vergara and his wife bought out the club's co-owners to take full control. The Vergaras own Chivas de Guadalajara, and he's not particularly popular in Mexico, so that's obviously a great sign. With Chivas USA, he's been an absentee owner, and there's a dilemma with his taking over complete ownership. Would fans rather see him continue his cheap and absentee ways? No. Would fans like to see him meddle in the club's business in destructive ways like he does with Chivas de Guadalajara? No.
Based on the ownership change and the on-field product, Fraser's days look to be numbered. But that could be just the start of what will likely be a very rocky ride for Chivas USA fans.
Chivas USA has scored fewer goals than any other MLS team this season by a fairly large margin. What will the team have to do to change that? Or do they plan on finding a way to win matches without actually scoring goals?
They've never had a breakout game all year, so I don't expect anything approaching a dominant attacking performance for the remainder of the season. With the uncertainty surrounding the club, it seems like the team is going through the motions, and while there have been some promising attacking players making a claim to get regular minutes, there is almost no service provided to the attack. So it will continue to be hard to watch, as the players continue to mess up the rare chances they get.
On the positive side, I think it is worth discussing some of the promising young players. I'm sure D.C. fans are familiar with Juan Agudelo, and while he's not scoring regularly, he's shown a great deal of potential. Columbian striker Jose Correa has been buried on the bench lately, which is unfortunate because he looks like he could be the real deal. Miller Bolanos has been leading the team in shots in recent games and has shown a level of skill and grit that could prove useful around the roster. Tristan Bowen and Casey Townsend have been getting a regular look lately, and have shown they could emerge as good pros. Of that group, somebody has to emerge at sometime, don't they? With a good playmaker, I think they could score in spades. But I'm not expecting that in 2012, unfortunately.
As a local product out of the University of Maryland, many United fans are very familiar with Casey Townsend, and some of us were even hoping to see him selected by D.C. in the 2012 MLS Draft. But our team never had the opportunity since he was snatched up by Chivas before United's first round pick. How has he done this season? In hindsight, was Townsend the right choice for Chivas USA?
He's a popular player with Chivas USA fans, and he got off to a hot start, when he scored the gamewinner against Real Salt Lake on the road early in the season. On paper, he's looked disappointing, as that has been his only goal of the season, but I think a couple of factors have worked against him in 2012. First, he's suffering from the same problem the other forwards on the team are, in that he seldom gets quality or consistent service from the midfield. Without getting regular chances on goal, his development stalled for a spell. The second issue is that he was buried on the depth chart for much of the middle portion of the season, with Juan Pablo Angel, Agudelo, and Correa taking nearly all of the minutes during that time. Still, it's not unusual for rookies to have to wait their turn, and he's shown promise when he has played. Did Chivas make the right choice for Townsend? To a large extent, I think the jury is still out, as we'll have to wait another season or two to see if he rounds into a good pro. But he seems to be a good player for the future with Chivas USA, which I hope will be brighter.
We answered three questions posed by the Goat Parade as well. Continue reading for my answers to their questions about D.C. United.
TGP: Obviously, both teams are entering this match with the end of the season almost here. Can you briefly give a rundown of D.C. United's season and how you are feeling heading into the playoffs? What are the remaining goals this season for this club, and do you think they will be realized?
B&RU: The goal this season has always been the playoffs, and yeah I think we'll make it, thanks in part to having an easier schedule to finish out the year than those around us. After starting the year with two losses, United went on an undefeated streak through the months of April and May that left the team in first place in the Eastern Conference and feeling pretty darn good about themselves. The fall from the top has been a slow one, culminating with a season-ending injury to Dwayne De Rosario while he was away on national team duty just over a week ago. United has consistently struggled on the road, but still hasn't lost a match at home since the season opener. This team has also done a good job of capturing full points against weaker opponents throughout the year, which could spell bad news for Chivas USA tomorrow night.
Who has been the most important player for United this season, and why? And who has performed well but mostly flown under the radar in 2012?
The most important player for United last season, this season, and every season going forward until he retires is De Rosario. Many of us thought that the team was effectively eliminated from the playoffs on the day the news broke that he'd miss the remainder of 2012, but fortunately that hasn't been the case. Among others, Chris Pontius has stepped up his already excellent form to lead the team to two-straight victories, scoring or assisting on all three goals in our wins over the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union in the process.
You've probably heard of the two players that make up our newly established forward tandem of Lionard Pajoy and Maicon Santos, but they don't get as much media attention so you probably don't understand the importance they bring to this team. With DeRo out, Ben Olsen has turned to Santos and Pajoy to provide more strength and physicality at the top of the formation. Both are good at winning balls and holding up the play to enable Pontius, Nick DeLeon, and Andy Najar to make runs on the wings. Be ready for these two to pester Danny Califf all night long.
Ben Olsen has had some ups and downs in his tenure as coach, but he seems to be settling in well. Can you briefly evaluate his evolution as coach, as well as his performance in 2012?
You'll have a hard time getting an unbiased evaluation of Ben Olsen from any lifelong United fan. The man can do no wrong. If Olsen was trying to break into my parent's house, I'd probably help him. Like any young coach, he's made his share of mistakes this season. But overall, he's built a roster that's more competitive than any other roster this team has had the past four seasons, and one that never quits. This team emulates Olsen's playing style from before he retired, and that's something every United fan can appreciate.
Prediction for Sunday's match?
Since United has had such poor luck against Chivas at this point in the season recently, I hesitate to predict a win. But our 10-1-4 home record is enough to inspire me to do it anyway. I'm predicting a 1-0 win for United.