Two Rapids coaches jettisoned the team at the end of the surprising 2013 season for the Rapids, with Oscar Pareja being the more notable loss to FC Dallas. The lesser of the two losses was assistant coach Wilmer Cabrera, who many had originally pegged as Pareja's replacement before the two left, who headed to Chivas USA to take over his first head coaching job. His team has not quite done as well as Pablo Mastroeni's team in Colorado, but they are a team with some talent and a few people (Simon Borg) still think they can be a sneaky playoff squad in 2014. We talked to Alicia from The Goat Parade to see how Cabrera and his boys are doing out in LA.
BW: The first question is a pretty obvious one: How's our old friend Wilmer Cabrera doing at Chivas USA?
TGP: I think he's been decent so far. He seems willing to mix experience and youth and he's not afraid to give youngsters minutes, which I suppose is important. He has said he's trying to work on the defense first and foremost, and I'm not sure he's winning that battle, though it may not be entirely his fault. I will say that his propensity to play a high defensive line, coupled with the fact that Chivas play two of the slowest center backs in the league in Bobby Burling and Carlos Bocanegra comes to disaster pretty frequently. I don't know, it could be that the team just needs time to gel, and by July and August, things start clicking, but they aren't clicking right now.
Cabrera has a whale of a task in taking on the CUSA job, and it isn't surprising at all that the team is struggling. I think he's had some good times and some bad times to start his Chivas tenure, but they do need to start getting some points if the season isn't going to be a complete lost cause.
BW: You mentioned the Chivas defense being a somewhat shaky one. What's been the cause of that?
TGP: Many have argued the high line isn't doing them any favors, but the biggest issue is clearly the personnel. Burling and Bocanegra are good in the air, but they are unbelievably slow, and more than a few MLS teams use speed as an attacking weapon. Their right back is newly converted into the position, although Eric Avila has been solid more often than not. Compared to most actual RB's in the league, however, he's got a lot to learn. Left Back has been a rotating cast, and they have been playing their third choice, Donny Toia, in recent games due to injury, though there are considerable questions about the first choice, Tony Lochhead.
Defense was a concern coming into the season, and I understand why Cabrera has said he's focusing on getting that in good shape. But that reminds me of another CUSA coach who prioritized defense, saying that would be the priority, then they would work on the offense. Robin Fraser worked on the defense for two season, never figured it out, and also had a horrible attack. I think fans are starting to panic that this year's team is on the same path of terrible results and ugly soccer, and that's why anxiety levels are going up by the week.
BW: Looking at the Chivas USA offense, do you think that we'll see a former Rapids showdown with both Martin Rivero and Marvin Chavez on the field? Other than Cubo Torres, who else is a dangerous player to watch on the Chivas offense?
TGP: I'm not sure about Chavez, since he only joined a few days ago, although he won't be with the team for long before the World Cup, so he could see some minutes against Colorado. I think there's a decent chance Rivero could start, and I'd like to see him start. Cabrera has been bringing along most newcomers, including Rivero, slowly, presumably to build up their fitness. But with Mauro Rosales out and Rivero showing he can run an offense, many hope he gets the call against his old side.
You alluded to the weapon that is Cubo Torres. Beyond him, Chivas have nobody scoring right now. The simple game plan for opponents, at least until another Chivas player steps up, is to stop Cubo, and a shutout is probably a high possibility. It's really puzzling as this team has upgraded their attacking options but still can't seem to help Torres score. I will say that Leandro Barrera, a left winger, has been the beast attacking player behind Cubo and Rosales this season, but he's more apt to set up a teammate rather than score himself. In short, I'm also waiting to see who else is truly dangerous on Chivas' attack.
Thanks again to Alicia for the question exchange. You can see my answers to her Rapids centric questions over at The Goat Parade.