I traded three questions with Alicia Ratterree of The Goat Parade, probably the best Chivas USA blog out there and what do you know it's on SBN Soccer...Enjoy
1) It seems like both sides of the blockbuster Juan Agudelo for Heath Pearce trade will probably be happy with what they got. How are Chivas fans feeling about the early returns from that deal?
So far, so good on the Agudelo-Pearce trade. Although Pearce is a recent U.S. international, he was probably the team's best trade chip and he showed signs of inconsistency from the center back position early this season, something that wasn't an issue in 2011. And while his departure would have been costly if there wasn't another veteran center back to step in the breach, Chivas also dealt for Danny Califf from the Philadelphia Union. While Califf is older than Pearce, he's a natural center back and he's entered the lineup without issue, so that seems to have worked out.
Meanwhile, Chivas' biggest issue has been lack of scoring, so picking up Agudelo, a young though proven scorer in the league, was a great deal from the get-go. Agudelo also came into the lineup straightaway, and he has a goal and an assist in four league matches with Chivas, as well as a goal in the U.S. Open Cup. The attack looks to be improving, and Agudelo has been a contributor in Chivas' recent upswing in form.
2) Fairly bizarrely, Chivas USA has been enormously more effective on the road than at home this year. What has been the main reasons CUSA has played with no fear on the road?
That is the big question, and I don't have any good answers. At one point early in the season, when Chivas were losing at home over and over again, Alejandro Moreno was quoted in the local press as saying that the team perhaps didn't feel the support at home, but after fans got upset about that remark, he walked back from it.
I think the crowds have been good, not great, this season, with the exception of one match that took place during a storm (Southern Californians don't deal with inclement weather). Although they dug themselves a major hole with their terrible form at home, they have only lost one of their last four home games, so it appears they may be righting the ship in that respect. On the road, my best explanation would be that the team focuses better and takes the situation more seriously game in and game out. They play with a sharpness that has been lacking at home, so I think the disparity can be partially explained by better focus when away from the Home Depot Center.
3) I would imagine goal scoring has been the biggest reason Chivas is still sitting outside the playoff places. With only 11 goals in 15 games, what needs to happen to get the goals coming for the goats?
Probably the expectation moving forward is that this team will continue to build chemistry as a unit on the field and get more accustomed to each other's styles of play. Barring a central attacking midfielder, which I think is the biggest need for Chivas at the moment, I think they have the pieces in place to make a step up in the MLS hierarchy.
In addition to adding Agudelo, Chivas also signed young Colombian forward Jose Correa, who has two goals in five league appearances. And Juan Pablo Angel is rounding into form after missing extended time with a concussion early in the season, and he's scored four goals in his last seven appearances (all competitions). After a brutal start to the season and almost complete futility in finding goals in the initial matches, Chivas have picked up the pace since the start of May, and they have only been held scoreless once in the last two months. They still have work to do, but the attack seems to be clicking of late.
Bonus: Give us a player on Chivas USA who may not be an MLS household name but could have a big impact on Saturday night.
Given the likelihood Chivas will be missing Nick LaBrocca again due to a hamstring injury, I think there's a decent chance we'll see Ben Zemanski playing as a box-to-box midfielder again on Saturday. He did play in the midweek match, but he's young and had a great game Wednesday against the Montreal Impact in the win, so I think he could get another start against Dallas.
Zemanski is the most versatile player on Chivas' roster, playing all throughout the midfield and even as center back in the past. He is more defense-minded overall, but against Montreal he showed his attacking chops with a few long-range shots that required saves. Oswaldo Minda is getting most of the attention this season in Chivas' midfield, and he's been outstanding, but Zemanski is a player who does a little of everything and doesn't have any visibility around the league.