Portland Timbers vs. Chivas USA Preview Interview with Alicia Ratterree

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So the first pre-season tournament game has come and gone. Honestly, it wasn't the result or performance that I was hoping for. Granted a few key players were missing: Eric Brunner, Kris Boyd, Franck Songo'o to name a few, but I still expected more from a home opener and I expect more from them tomorrow night against Chivas USA, a team which suffered a disappointed 2-nil loss against Swedish side AIK.

While I did watch the Chivas USA-AIK game Monday evening, I still thought it better to refer to our resident SB Nation expert, Alicia Ratterree, on Chivas USA and ask her a few questions about what Chivas has been up to in the offseason and what we can expect to see tomorrow night. Read more from her about Chivas USA on her blog The Goat Parade.

Enjoy!

So, obviously, it's been a big off season for most MLS teams. What has Chivas done in the off season?

Would you like the short version or the long? haha

Let's start with the short version and see where it goes.

Ok... Chivas enters the 2012 season with an incumbent coach, Robin Fraser, and this year he got a full offseason to prepare. While a key core of players remain, the poor finish in 2011 meant changes needed to be made. Most reserves were cut loose, as well as a few starters, including forward Justin Braun (traded to Montreal), defender Zarek Valentin (selected by Montreal in the Expansion Draft), and defender Michael Umana (signed with Comunicaciones in Guatemala. Several incoming players, in a variety of positions, have Chivas fans excited about the possibilities, including SuperDraft selection Casey Townsend (Forward), Ecuadoreans Oswaldo Minda (midfield) and Miller Bolanos (M/F), and Colombian John Valencia (defender).

The result is that there's been yet another season of turnover, but it seems these players could really help improve Chivas' prospects in 2012

Speaking of Justin Braun, I always saw him as a bit of a play maker for you guys (correct me if I'm wrong)... how does his absence affect the 2012 Chivas squad?

Braun is a mercurial player. He has matches where he looks like a beast, and he has matches where he can't do anything right. He is big, and works hard, but the inconsistency was a major issue. I think Chivas' fans were sad to see him go, but I also think most were aware of his limitations. I did think he played well as a playmaker (I would argue he would make a great support striker for a pure scorer), but he didn't have much chance to do that properly with Chivas.

And what about Juan Pablo Angel? Is he a keeper for the team or a wasted investment?

He's technically not signed, which makes me nervous although JPA and club alike swear he will sign. He played great with Chivas last season (7 goals in 9 games), and I think the fact that he didn't play for Chivas in the match against Portland at Jeld-wen was one reason why it was a turning point for the Goats (in a bad way).

He's not young, and there's a risk he could be totally ineffective, but I think consensus is that he deserves another season, at least.

So looking ahead to Thursday's game who should Timbers fans look out for? Or which players will be the biggest threat in either end o the field?

Michael Lahoud and new signing Ryan Smith have been playing on the wings this preseason, and they have looked really good. Their chemistry together has been remarkable, as I saw them criss-cross at one point and play on opposite wings, leading to a goal for Lahoud in their match last week against Club Tijuana. A switch like that only works if both players can pull it off and work together.

Additionally, new forwards Townsend and Cesar Romero have been playing very well in preseason. If they can play well under the bright lights Thursday, it will be a good omen come the regular season.

Does the loss Monday night affect any of your current outlooks on the upcoming season? What did you take away from the match?

First, a disclaimer - I couldn't watch Monday's match, so I had to rely upon the word of others as far as actual performances.

I'm of two minds about Monday's loss. On one hand, it's preseason, and messing up a whole bunch during the preseason doesn't matter if you can get results during the regular season. It's a belief I hold in any sport, not just soccer.

On the other hand, from the loss and from what I have seen of Chivas this preseason, I am still quite concerned about their defensive abilities. I think they need time to gel, as half of the starting backline is new, but I worry they will be liable for bad goals heading into the season.

And just to conclude, what's your predicted starting line up for tomorrow?

Hmmm...I don't know if they will play a new lineup or play some of the guys from Monday.

I'll use the assumption they'll play some new guys, so here's my best effort:

GK: Dan Kennedy
DEF: Matt Dallman (trialist), Rauwshan McKenzie, David Junior Lopes, James Riley
MID: Laurent Courtois, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski, Blair Gavin
FWD: Casey Townsend, Cesar Romero

Once again, big thanks to Alicia. You can read more from her about Chivas USA over at her blog The Goat Parade.

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