The Chicago Fire and Chivas USA both come into the 2014 season on the back of upheaval. Both have a new head coach: veteran Canadian boss Frank Yallop takes the reins in the Windy City while retired Colombian international and former Colorado Rapids assistant Wilmer Cabrera is in the Goats' hotseat. They've also been heavily involved in transfers: 11 players in and 15 out for Chicago, a staggering 13 in and 19 out for Chivas.
Despite some similar issues, the far more daunting project is that concering Los Angeles' second soccer team. Major League Soccer bought out owner Jorge Vergara last month and installed former league executive Nelson Rodriguez as team president. There no actual ownership group yet as MLS works to find a new owner, and the team has an identity thats days are numbered after the league announced intentions for a rebrand next year. Combine that with on-field issues like the league's biggest player turnover and the fact that Chivas USA finished dead last in the Western Conference for the third time in four years, and it's easy to see why some are ready to write off this season before it begins.
And well, it's hard to blame anyone who would. Chivas had the second-worst attack in MLS last season, scoring just 30 goals, and its marquee offseason signing is 34-year-old Adolfo Bautista. "Bofo" may bring a smile to the Chivas de Guadalajara fans who fondly recall his exploits in Mexico, but his glory days belong to the last decade. Wilmer Cabrera may have a stellar record as a youth coach and an assistant, but he's never helmed a senior operation.
Even more worryingly, the league's most generous defense (67 goals conceded in 2013) has, on balance, gotten worse. Mario de Luna, the team's defensive mainstay, returned to Guadalajara at the end of his loan. Homegrown defensive midfielder Jorge Villafana was traded to Portland. Carlos Bocanegra will turn 35 in May. The additions of a handful of free transfers and still-raw 21-year-old Andrew Jean-Baptiste won't begin to paper over the cracks.
That's not to say there aren't a few bright spots for Chivas. On-loan Guadalajara wonderkid Erick "Cubo" Torres (7 goals in 15 games) was retained and could be a genuine star. If he can stay healthy, new signing Mauro Roslaes is a top-20 midfielder in MLS. And Dan Kennedy is one of the best keepers in the league, despite being its most put-upon (166 shots faced, most in MLS). Despite his age, Bocanegra is a player of experinece unmatched by almost any other MLS defender.
READ MORE: Goal's full 2014 MLS preview
Chicago, on the other hand, is in a much rosier situation. New head coach Frank Yallop is a veteran with a serious trophy haul on his CV. Mike Magee (21 goals, 4 assists) is the reigning MLS MVP. Chicago's squad is on the uninspiring side but retains most of the spine that missed the 2013 playoffs on goals scored. Whether jettisoning a pair of ever-present 25-year-old defenders in Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba (both played all 3,060 minutes of last season) and bringing in Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (27 appearances for Seattle) and Patrick Ianni (nine appearances for Seattle) is a good idea remains to be seen.
Although Chicago has the edge all-time when these teams meet, winning nine games to Chivas' five with three draws, the Goats won big in last season's only encounter between these two sides, posting a 4-1 victory.
The game will kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. It will broadcast nationally on UniMas.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Frank Yallop
- Chivas de Guadalajara
- Major League Soccer
- Wilmer Cabrera