Waking The Red: After starting the season with a plan (controversial perhaps but definitely a plan) and a few wins early on, Chivas have regressed back to their normal level? Is there any hope at all for this season, or is it simply about the future now? Is there still a semblance of a plan for the future?
The Goat Parade: Those are good questions, and although the ownership keeps telling us there is a clear plan, it's still pretty murky. I think the good news for the moment is that the adjustments made midseason were clearly necessary and have paid off, at least in small ways. After firing coach Chelís in May, the team brought in Jose Luis Real, who also has no MLS coaching experience, but who fits the conventional mold of the league much more, and who has started the team on a pragmatic path where they have been playing better overall. Add to that the roster changes, some of which I have not been a fan of, and some I have liked, and the Goats are bringing in Carlos Bocanegra and Mexican forward Erick "Cubo" Torres, who both could potentially give Chivas a necessary boost in talent. So compared with how the situation looked in May, does it appear to be better now? Yes, it does.
Does that mean Chivas will be making a push for the playoffs this year? No. They still have a massive talent deficit on most parts of the field, and I foresee plenty of narrow losses ahead, as opposed to major losses. And that doesn't even address the ownership situation, or the long-promised stadium for the club, or the general lack of investment in the team. So it's hard for me to really talk about any sort of future for this team beyond the coming weeks.
WTR: Eric Avila, I thought he'd gone off to Mexican Chivas, but there he is, back in the team and scoring a goal against Montreal. How has he performed this season?
TGP: He's been one of Chivas USA's best field players, actually. It seemed he had considerable potential to be a breakout star this year, and while I don't think he's garnered widespread attention around the league yet, he, along with left winger Jorge Villafana, are responsible for developing Chivas' flank play on the attack, the only avenue that's been consistently successful this season for the team. The issue is that he still needs to produce more if he really is going to become a star and take advantage of that potential, but compared to his teammates, he's doing his part.
And yes, after heading to Chivas de Guadalajara, Avila is back with Chivas USA for the rest of the season. The clubs officially called it a "trial," although the Mexican team was practically drooling over him in the press. I can't get confirmation of this, but my suspicion is that ultimately, the front office realized letting Avila go to Mexico was going to be an even bigger disaster for Chivas USA than it was worth, so they decided to delay a possible move until the end of the season.
WTR: Carlos Alvarez was one of the players TFC passed over at the draft. How big a part has he played for Chivas this season and what are his future prospects looking like?
TGP: In many respects, I think Alvarez is like many MLS rookies. He is very inconsistent. He's played in most of Chivas' games this season, so he's getting minutes, but there are games in which he looks like he's going to be one of those mythical central midfield playmakers (I say mythical because I can't recall the last time Chivas USA had one), there are games where he looks like he'll become a midfielder with a nose for goal, and there are games where his biggest contributions are chippy and/or dumb fouls.
Basically, he's ever-present in the lineup because he's the only guy on the roster who really plays central attacking mid, and he's shown the full range in his performances, good and bad. How will he shake out as a pro? I hesitate to make a definitive prediction at this point, because I still think he's adjusting to the pro game and it's too soon to make a clear call.
WTR: Lineup and score prediction.
GK: Dan Kennedy
D: Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna, Carlos Bocanegra, Walter Vilchez
M: Eric Avila, Edgar Mejia, Carlos Alvarez, Gabriel Farfan, Jorge Villafana
F: Erick Torres
Prediction: Both teams are going to like their chances here, right? TFC have already beaten a fellow bottom-dweller this season, so they could have the edge, such as it is, but I'll stick my neck out and call it a 1-0 Chivas win.
Thanks Alicia. Be sure to check out The Goat Parade for my answers to her questions, as well as the Chivas view of the game and some frankly excellent reporting on the ongoing craziness that is Chivas USA.