The New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA will meet just once during the regular MLS season, so we marked the occasion by swapping three questions with Alicia Ratterree of The Goat Parade. Read on for her thoughts on Juan Agudelo and the Goats uncanny tendency to finish games 1-0. You can also see the Once a Metro answers here.
1) What has the reaction been around Chivas' two recent trades, particularly the swapping of Heath Pearce and allocation money for Juan Agudelo?
I think there's an excitement surrounding the team that I haven't seen in quite some time. Heading into the season, it seemed Chivas made some moves to make them a better team, perhaps even a playoff contender. Although there has been improvement, and Chivas' road form has been good this season, the improvement wasn't quite at the level I think all would expect through the first 10 matches. Fans have been looking at head coach Robin Fraser and General Manager Jose Domene to make some significant moves, and the trades last week were what folks were along the lines of what folks were hoping for. Pearce was playing out of position at center back for Chivas, and Danny Califf is a natural center back. The hope is that Califf can stabilize the defense. And Chivas are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league so far this season, and getting Agudelo, in addition to new signing Jose Correa from Colombia, will hopefully help jumpstart the attack.
I think Chivas fans liked Pearce and thought he was one of the team's best players in 2011. He's shown more inconsistency in 2012, however, and he was perhaps the team's best trade chip. I think he would prefer to play at full back, but he now has some experience playing center back as well. Since the Red Bulls had an embarrassment of riches at forward and Chivas desperately need scoring, there is considerable hope Agudelo can really catch on and help his new team right away. All in all, there is considerable enthusiasm surrounding this team at the moment.
2) Seven of Chivas' first eleven matches have ended 1-0 (three wins and four losses). What does this say about the team and its approach, and do you expect the trend to continue?
I think a few factors have been at play for all those 1-0 and 0-1 results. First, Chivas have played one of the hardest schedules this season, and they started the season playing a very conservative formation since Fraser was concerned about potential defensive frailties. In addition, as I've noted they haven't exactly been a free-scoring team, and so when they have scored they've only gotten a goal more often than not. On the other hand, I think the narrow losses have indicated that this team has been solid defensively overall, only suffering one bad loss this season, to Colorado. Although giving up late goals has been a problem lately, the real issue for me has been that when they go behind, they are unable to get back into the match and even up the score. Hopefully the new strikers will help provide scoring. I think Chivas is a team that may not play a beautiful brand of football, admittedly, but they will be competitive nearly every match and keep it close.
3) The last time Chivas USA visited Red Bull Arena, Justin Braun scored three goals in fifty-six minutes. Where will the team's offense come from Wednesday night against New York?
Obviously without Braun Chivas cannot expect him to replicate his magic from last season in Harrison. And while that was undoubtedly a great performance for Braun, the reality is that he was not a reliable scorer at all last season, as he scored eight goals on the season, but only scored in four games. Against the Red Bulls, all three goals were needed for the win, but Braun's inconsistency on the season made him a maddening player to watch at times.
I think the narrative Chivas fans and neutrals would like to see would be Agudelo scoring on his old team, but he's off with the U.S. Men's National Team this week and will not be available. So the burden falls to Correa, who has scored two goals in three appearances since joining the team, as well as midfielder Miller Bolanos, who has looked dangerous since joining in the offseason and has yet to score a goal of his own with Chivas. Juan Pablo Angel has played limited minutes so far in 2012, but if he is healthy and on the field he will be expected to contribute to the scoring as well. His output last season after joining Chivas, when he scored seven goals in nine matches, indicates he still has the ability to make a big impact. Finally, fellow veteran Alejandro Moreno has never been known for his scoring volume, but he does pop up occasionally with timely goals. These players all need to step up, and are still learning to work as teammates, but the attack looks better in the past three weeks than it did the previous month, and that's a good sign for Chivas.
4) Bonus question: What's your prediction for Wednesday night?