KeyBank Scouting Report: Portland Timbers vs. Chivas USA
Back at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday, the Portland Timbers take on Chivas USA for the first time this season. Find out everything you need to know about the Seattle opposition.
A brief history…
Brought into MLS as its 11th team in 2004, Chivas USA is a partner team of Chivas Guadalajara as billionaire film producer Jorge Vergara Madrigal owns both of the clubs.
While Chivas are a direct rival of LA Galaxy, they share the same stadium – The Home Depot Center – and their matches are always intense. On the pitch, they have enjoyed some success as they finished as Supporters Shield runners-up in 2007 after winning the Western Conference Championship.
How did they fare last season?
The less said about last year, the better according to Chivas supporters. They finished in 17th place overall with their top scorer (Juan Pablo Angel) only hitting four goals in the league. It was a difficult first campaign in charge for second year head coach Robin Fraser, who was replaced at the season’s end.
Despite reaching the semi-finals of the US Open Cup, Chivas’ league form was very difficult and a number of their high-profile signings, like Shalrie Joseph and Juan Agudelo didn’t have the type of impact that they had hoped for. Finishing second from bottom in MLS overall and last in the Western Conference summed up their inconsistent season.
Who have they brought in for this season?
Some shrewd trading saw Chivas bring in midfielder Eric Avila from Colorado Rapids, while they also signed former Timber Steve Purdy and used their No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to select Carlos Alvarez, who is tipped to have a bright future in the game.
Chivas also strengthened with the addition of four loan signings from Chivas Guadalajara while jettisoning a number of familiar MLS names Danny Califf, James Riley, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski--who was traded to the Timbers--Ryan Smith, Alejandro Moreno and Angel all departing.
How have they fared so far this season?
It has been quite a mixed season so far with a record of 3-4-2 - their victories have come against FC Dallas, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps. The 1-1 tie with rivals LA Galaxy showed a fighting spirit that new head coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola was brought in to implement, but inconsistency has continued to haunt them.
Chivas has not won a game since their 2-1 triumph over Vancouver at the end of March and the last month has been quite disappointing with defeats to Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake, and Sporting Kansas City. In their last outing, they were battered 4-0 by Kansas and had goalkeeper Dan Kennedy sent off in a game that saw them register only three attempts on goal.
Head coach: Jose Luis Sanchez Sola
Even though he is one of the newest coaches in MLS, Sanchez Sola is also one of the most outspoken. Known simply as El Chelis, the 54-year-old has spent his entire coaching career until now in his native Mexico with spells in charge of Puebla, Tecos UAG, and Correcaminos UAT. A passionate man, he is someone who demands maximum effort from his players as well as attacking soccer.
Star Player: Joaquin Velazquez
With Kennedy forced to serve a suspension in this match against Portland, Velazquez’s leadership will be even more important as he tries to steady their backline. The 37-year-old Mexican has spent the majority of his career with Puebla, where he played over 200 games, and his experience will be vital to Chivas over the course of this season – and for this game against the Timbers.
One To Watch: Jorge Villafana
In 2007, this exciting youngster came out on top in the Sueno MLS reality show, which earned him a trial with Chivas and eventually a professional contract. He is still learning the game, but this could be a very big season for the midfielder as he takes on more responsibility in the team. Quick to move the ball forward, he can spot a pass and works hard to win possession back.
What can the Timbers expect?
Determined to play an attacking brand of soccer, Chivas play high up the pitch and try to pin their opponents back inside their own half. While they are quite dangerous when shifting the ball forward, often through short, sharp passing, they do not have as high a possession rate.
There is a tenacious streak to Sanchez Sola’s team, especially since bringing in the likes of Edgar Mejia and Julio Morales from their sister team in Mexico. This means that they will be extremely competitive in one-on-one situations and will try to disrupt the Timbers’ flowing moves from midfield while also squeezing play in central areas.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Defense has been a real challenge area for Chivas with 15 goals conceded in 11 games and the decision to play only three defenders has left them incredibly vulnerable at times. In their last game, away to Kansas, they allowed 19 crosses from open play to reach their penalty area and were forced to deal with 17 attempts on their goal.
While the protection from midfield has been important, their last line of defence, the superb Kennedy, has bailed them out of tight games on numerous occasions. So the absence of their experienced goalkeeper could knock their confidence as they will have to rely on the untested Patrick McLain, who played one match for the Timbers U-23s in 2009.
Who are their main threats?
After trading Agudelo to the New England Revolution in midweek, Chivas has altered its already limited forward department. Yet, if they can get a steady flow of service into Morales, Tristan Bowen and Jose Manuel Rivera, who are likely to start in the forward positions, then they can cause real problems.
A lot depends on the formation that Chivas will start with and if that is the 3-4-3 system that they have preferred in recent games then it suggests they will try to over-run the Timbers in midfield. The presence of Avila and Mejia will be crucial in that strategy, especially with the creativity of Alvarez missing due to suspension.
Previous Meetings in MLS
2011: March 29 – Portland Timbers 2-0 Chivas USA
2011: June 4 – Chivas USA 1-0 Portland Timbers
2011: August 24 – Portland Timbers 1-0 Chivas USA
2012: April 7 – Portland Timbers 1-2 Chivas USA
2012: July 18 – Chivas USA 1-0 Portland Timbers
2012: July 28 – Portland Timbers 0-1 Chivas USA
Record vs Chivas USA: 2-4-0
Did You Know?
Current United States international goalkeeper Brad Guzan recorded 24 shut-outs during his three seasons with Chivas before joining Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandTimbers.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.