The Blue Testament asks The Goat Parade...
1) How have Chivas been adjusting to a midfield without Mauro Rosales, slotting in Nigel Reo-Coker instead?
Results-wise, it hasn't been great, as the team has dropped three games in a row by letting in a bunch of goals and only scoring two. The trade was a real head-scratcher, as Rosales was the only healthy midfield playmaker on the team, and if they have any particular strength, it's at holding mid. All that said, it's not like Rosales was carrying the team, and Reo-Coker has acquitted himself pretty well so far, with one of our writers this week saying he played like a man amongst boys in Chivas' last game.
Overall, the problems with personnel in midfield reflect the greater problems with the roster, and I don't see any real fixes this season to those issues.
2) Chivas had a good stretch in the middle of the season, winning four in a row before going on the lengthy winless streak they are currently embroiled in. Was that streak an anomaly or does this team have the talent to get out of this funk and go on another run like that?
It's looking more and more like that winning streak was the anomaly on the season. Although they won those games, they didn't play very well in them, but at the time, it was seen as perhaps the team finally had some luck on their side after what seemed like years without any. But since Carlos Bocanegra went down with a concussion, since Erick Torres's scoring streak, which was reaching record proportions, ended, and since the Rosales trade seemed to destabilize the team, it's been all downhill. We've seen bad Chivas USA teams since 2010, but this current winless run is reaching the epically bad stretches at the end of 2012 and the middle of 2013.
I will say that there have been a number of injuries that led the team to its current state. Promising rookie Thomas McNamara has been out with a torn ACL, as has the Goats' other playmaker, Martin Rivero. Bobby Burling was out for awhile with a knee injury during the winning streak, and young reserve CBs Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Eriq Zavaleta have also dealt with injuries, and Bocanegra's absence has been significant. The only segment of the field that hasn't been hit with the bug is the forward corps, but the problem there is that literally nobody can score besides Cubo (a problem writ large on the team, but a particular problem for the players specifically paid to score goals). If the team had remained healthy all year, would it have turned out differently? I can't say they'd be competing for a playoff spot, but they most likely would be more consistent than this.
3) With Carlos Bocanegra announcing his retirement at the end of the season, how is his short career at Chivas viewed?
He'll probably ultimately be underrated, both within the context of CUSA, since his time here has not been successful by any measure, and within the league, because people just don't pay attention to Chivas. But the defense came out of the World Cup break this season in their best form, and Bocanegra was the player directing the team to finally start keeping shutouts. They haven't won since he got hurt, and they've picked up a solitary point.
I will say, that although the team has not been successful, he clearly played a role in the success they did have, as every game they've won since he joined the team in July 2013 came when he was playing. That's an ominous statistic for the rest of this season, because it is unclear if he'll play again before his retirement is official. All in all, Bocanegra was a player who showed me he had more to give, but the fact that he was on such a bad team muted his impact, and he ultimately didn't get the sendoff he should.
(Here's a cool feature on Bocanegra written by Alicia that really exemplifies his career at Chivas USA. http://www.thegoatparade.com/2014/9/4/6107957/commentary-carlos-bocanegra-could-not-transform-chivas-usa-but-he-helped-signal-new-direction)
The Goat Parade asks The Blue Testament...
1. Sporting Kansas City are of course MLS Cup champions, and weathered the absence of World Cup stars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler pretty well this summer. But instead of having a blip or two along the way, Sporting are on their first real slide in quite some time. What's going on, and why has the tide turned in Kansas City lately?
Well, that's the thing: we don't know what's going on. The defense has been completely turned on its head with Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic and Aurelien Collin, normally rocks in the back line, not playing up to standard. The offense has been more or less the same but when a team gives up two or three goals like Sporting has the past few games, it's hard to overcome that. A question has to be asked if exhaustion is playing a factor in this, considering Sinovic has played nearly every game this season, Besler went straight from the world cup to the club and our defensive depth has taken such a hit this year that spot starts are rare to be seen. One hopeful sign for Sporting KC was their 2-1 loss to New York where it looked like the defense was improved, just seemed like a normal loss to a good attacking team. We'll see if that performance carries over to the Chivas match.
2. One of the hallmarks of SKC's success is their depth. Please highlight a player or two who has emerged this season amidst all of the absences and injuries.
Lawrence Olum has earned a lot of criticism this year, most of it warranted, but he has been able to step into a very tough position. After Uri Rosell transferred to Sporting Lisbon, Olum had to step in as the starting defensive midfielder. Taking Rosell's spot, a spot that takes extreme importance in Peter Vermes' system, is no small feat and Olum has been serviceable. He's made some mistakes but he's been decent overall, especially considering the other depth players who have had to take over starting roles, such as Igor Juliao, who is proving to be a big defensive liability on the left side. In the few games we've seen them, Andy Gruenebaum and Jon Kempin have also played well in goal but Olum's contributions in the midfield have been a huge necessity for the club.
3. From a selfish perspective, what's the talk around Sporting surrounding this game? Are they worried of dropping another game, or ready to crush Chivas?
There's about two different groups surrounding this match. The first camp is looking forward to this game, thinking that going up against Chivas will be a catalyst into getting the team back on track and ready to push through the home stretch of the season. The other group is worried that Sporting KC will go in and drop this game, landing the club into full panic mode. Neither side is particularly flattering to Chivas. I'm a little bit of both, thinking that this is a match Sporting KC should win but Chivas does have weapons that can take advantage of a struggling defense.
Check out the other side at The Goat Parade.