CARSON, CA - MARCH 26: Michael Lahoud #11 of Chivas USA passes the ball in front of Pablo Mastroeni #25 of the Colorado Rapids at The Home Depot Center on March 26, 2011 in Carson, California. The Rapids won 1-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
With the Colorado Rapids playing Chivas USA for the second time this season tomorrow, I got together with Alicia from our Chivas blog The Goat Parade for another one of our world famous patent pending Three Questions sessions. Her answers to my questions about the baby goats can be found below, if you want to see my answers to her questions about the Rapids you can check 'em out at The Goat Parade right here.
BW: Picking up Robin Fraser as head coach in the offseason was a fantastic move in my eyes for Chivas, a team that had been lacking much of an identity since the salad days of 2007. How has the team improved since Robin came aboard? Has there been much of a notable change at all?
tGP: Fraser has been the single most important addition to Chivas this season. He had no experience as a head coach, but his time serving under Jason Kreis in Real Salt Lake as an assistant coach obviously provided good training. I suppose one of the advantages for Fraser was that the roster was almost completely overturned, so he was able to implement a system more easily, and it has worked remarkably well.
Fraser started the season vowing to have a defense-first approach, which wasn't exactly surprising considering his experience as a defender in his playing days. I think the early emphasis on defense has served the team well all season, except for a tough stretch in June when they lost several leads because of defensive errors. But the lack of a reliable goalscorer on the team meant that Fraser had to really make more of an effort to find an offensive game, and with the emergence of Nick LaBrocca this season, Chivas have been scoring goals somewhat in spite of their personnel. Fraser has also demonstrated his ability to make formation changes depending on the opponent and has made in-game adjustments when necessary. All of this is to say that Fraser has built a true team that works as a unit on and off the field and his players fully support him and the system. It looks like Fraser has a promising career as a coach ahead of him, and Chivas are very lucky to have him.
BW: Give me a youngster or perhaps fairly anonymous Chivas player we might not know much about who we might want to watch out for on Saturday.
tGP: With three new players coming into the team during the transfer window (midfielder Laurent Courtois, defender David Junior Lopes, and forward Juan Pablo Angel) I think there will be some line-up changes in the next few games and it is tough to say who will be playing and when. I think Courtois could really help the team as a wing in providing distribution to the forwards, but he is still getting into match fitness so he may not play a full 90 minutes Saturday.
The player the Rapids need to watch out for is goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. He is finally playing consistently for the first time in his career without injury issues, and he is having a fantastic season. Seemingly every week I don't think Kennedy can bail out his teammates yet again, but he does it almost every week now. I think I've been conservative in ranking Kennedy among the league's goalkeepers this season, but with his consistency and ability to make spectacular saves, I truly believe he belongs in the top class. He hasn't done it alone, but without Kennedy, Chivas would be nowhere near the playoff chase at this point in the season.
BW: Like you said about the Rapids, Chivas is a team lacking any sort of superstars and getting by on hard work and a tight team dynamic. (No, JPA doesn't count as a superstar any more.) Who is the most important player on Chivas when it comes to their successes?
tGP: Besides Kennedy, Nick LaBrocca has been doing the heavy lifting on the offensive end and is essential to the team's success. Obtained in a trade from Toronto FC in the offseason, Chivas fans didn't really think they were getting anybody special, but LaBrocca has parleyed a lack of an available dynamic playmaker on the team at the beginning of the season to an all-star selection and a career year. He is tied for the team lead in goals scored this season with seven, but he performs consistently game in and game out. Now that teams have realized how important LaBrocca is in the Goats' attack, they have tried to shut him down, and some weeks it has worked. This will be the next test for LaBrocca in his development, where he will need to learn how to play with the spotlight and defensive focus on him. But hopefully the new players on the team will take some of the pressure off LaBrocca and give him the space to thrive in the homestretch this season.