It's time to officially kick off Rivalry Week here at LAG Confidential, and we start by asking three questions of Alicia Ratterree over at The Goat Parade. I'm only posting her answers to my questions here, if you wanna see my answers to her questions you'll have to check out things over at The Goat Parade. LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA kicks off at 2:00pm PDT on Sunday.
1. Chivas USA has a new look roster and a new coach. What new changes have paid off in the early going?
A good question, and a question that's damn near impossible to really answer so far. Obviously the biggest change has been the departure of Robin Fraser and the arrival of Chelís as coach, and so far, what we've heard about his strengths appear to be true for Chivas USA. He motivates his players, and mixes up the fun and serious sides, and players seem to have responded to him so far. Although he is trying some different styles and tactics from what the rest of MLS is doing, he has a reputation of being pragmatic, so I don't think he will be so set in his ways that he will refuse to change even when the results indicate he ought to.
As for the players, it is still pretty early to offer evaluations. However, early on I would say that two of the three new starting defenders, Mario de Luna and Walter Vilchez, have looked solid, and MLS veteran Eric Avila seems to be settling in pretty well so far. Edgar Mejia's shown some good and bad for me in the first two games, while Giovani Casillas has demonstrated the potential that he came to the team with, and scored his first pro competitive goal last week.
2. We've seen Collapsing Chivas and Comeback Chivas thus far in the season. What were the differences in the two performances?
In the first match, Chivas lacked energy and failed to press Columbus even though it was supposed to be the basis of their defense this season. In the second match, they set the tempo defensively, and although referees have indicated in both matches that Chivas are still figuring out the proper level of physicality, the press was back and it ended up paying dividends for the Goats in the comeback against FC Dallas. Oswaldo Minda tracked back on a lazy pass and ended up scoring the game-winning goal, and Casillas' goal came off a counterattack, capping off a performance that set the tempo Chelís wanted during training camp.
The other significant factor between the two games is that Chelís made a few key adjustments for the second match, and the players seemed to have been chemistry the second time around. Putting Minda back into the lineup against FCD was ultimately necessary, and it paid major dividends, while a fourth defender was in the lineup, albeit playing in a different position than you would see in a four-man backline. The fact that they learned from game to game and didn't make the same dumb mistakes over and over again already indicates that maybe Chivas have some room for improvement this season.
3. Walter Vilchez looks to be out for a month. What will his loss mean for the team?
We'll only really know in hindsight, but it could be pretty big, honestly. The two players Chelís insisted on bringing to Chivas USA were Vlichez and fellow defender Joaquin Velazquez, and both have been fixtures in the lineup so far. Vilchez is a Peruvian international, and looked like he was settling in quite nicely, and so for him to pick up the injury is doubly painful since Velazquez has looked very shaky so far (Velazquez hadn't played professionally since 2010 prior to the last two games, so...Chivas fans are pretty worried about him). Hopefully the player who enters the lineup for Vilchez will step up, and hopefully Vilchez will have a speedy recovery from his knee and ankle injury, but we'll have to ride it out and see how it unfolds.