The New England Revolution should have the game well in hand on Saturday night when they travel to Los Angeles to face Chivas USA at the StubHub Center. However, after a midweek trip to D.C. that has capped off a three-match winless streak in all competitions, one could be forgiven for a little apprehension.
Chivas is a club in complete shambles. On the pitch, they consistently put out sub-standard lineups that leak goals at prodigious rates. Off the pitch, the club is a horror show, run by incompetent ownership that has been the subject of aerial protests by supporters' groups. There's no reason why the Revs shouldn't be able to win this game, even with the travel issues.
TBM: I'm not sure where to begin. This has been a tough season for Chivas on and off the field. I'll begin with off the field: were you surprised by the Chelis firing, and do you think it was deserved? What was your impression of him while he was in LA?
AR: On the Chelís firing, I was actually aware of it about 10 days before it became official, so although I was surprised to hear it at first, by the time it came down, it made a certain kind of "sense." That concept is relative when we're talking Chivas USA, of course, but I think there were a few factors that explained it. First, after getting off to a hot 3-1-1 start, Chivas were not only losing but they began losing a string of blowouts, which is something one never wants to see. When the team was clicking, the lack of tactics and getting by on pure grit was fun to watch, but his three-man backline became less and less effective over time, and perhaps most significantly, there wasn't enough talent on the squad to really compete in many games. When Chelís started complaining about this publicly, he was shown the door.
In spite of all that, he was one of the most charismatic people I've ever been around. His players genuinely loved him, and his unorthodox ways provided intrigue to the club. Would it have worked out if Chivas had built a competitive squad? We'll never know, and that's a shame for all parties, really.
TBM: It seems like there are a lot of transfer rumors surrounding Chivas players these days, and even your parent/affiliated club seems interested in some top contributors. What's been the general reaction to those rumors and who, if anybody, looks certain to go?
AR: Eric Avila is officially on an extended trial with Chivas de Guadalajara, as is Giovani Casillas (although he came on loan from Guadalajara). There are rumors that Julio Morales will be headed back to the mothership after his service with the Mexico U-20 World Cup squad, but that remains to be seen. Miller Bolanos is reportedly back in Ecuador for good. And then there's the out-of-nowhere rumor that Dan Kennedy could move to Israel.
I think Bolaños is definitely gone, but the status of the others remains up in the air. Chivas USA fans were overwhelmingly livid with the Avila news, since he would be the first MLS player without prior connections to Mexican soccer to make the move. Also, Avila's been one of Chivas' bright spots this season, and with their scoring woes, the notion of gutting the roster of what talented players remain is galling, as you might imagine. I will say that Avila wants to play in Liga MX, and normally, when a player wants to play in a better league and can make the jump, it's part of the business and one can't get too upset. The potential problem here is that it appears unlikely that Chivas USA would get similar talent or fair compensation for an Avila transfer. So those reports that Chivas USA has become a farm team for Chivas de Guadalajara look to be all too real, and fans are pretty upset about that.
TBM: Juan Agudelo has been a big help for us this season since the Revs traded to get him from Chivas. How do you feel the Goats made out in that deal?
AR: Ha, Chivas got something out of the deal? Oh, that's right: the league minimum in Allocation Money. They flipped that money (as well as a high draft pick) for Gabriel Farfan from Philadelphia, so you know, that Agudelo trade was a joke. I understand Chivas couldn't get fair market value for Agudelo due to his contract status, and on a theoretical level I understand the idea of trying to get value for a player before he leaves on a free transfer, but this was beyond short-sighted. Agudelo powered Chivas' attack, and when he got hurt, the scoring stopped. Since his last appearance for the Goats, Chivas have scored four goals in nine games. Does that remind you of New England at the start of the season?
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
AR: I don't want to sound too bleak here, but the team is basically running out of players at this point. On one hand, I bet most folks haven't heard of most of Chivas' players, but do I really consider any of them truly dangerous? Nah. I will say that the team's longest-tenured player, Jorge Villafana, has played pretty well this season. He can be inconsistent, and his scoring touch lets him down a lot, but he plays well on the flanks, and if a teammate can actually get in the right spot on his crosses, a goal could result.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a score line prediction.
AR: GK: Dan Kennedy; D: Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna, Walter Vilchez, Josue Soto; M: Tristan Bowen, Carlos Alvarez, Edgar Mejia, Gabriel Farfan, Jorge Villafana; F: Jose Correa
Prediction: 2-0 Revs, Agudelo with both goals.