It was a disappointing season for both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chivas USA in 2013; both started well, both ended up missing the post-season, and both underwent some pretty big changes during the off-season. Now to start 2014, both teams have opened up their season with a win.
Well, Alicia Ratteree from fellow SBnation blog, The Goat Parade, has stopped by to share her thoughts on some new Chivas players, the club's well-known ownership problems, and her outlook for the season.
86FOREVER: There have been plenty of changes to your side this season. It's only been one match, but who's impressed you so far?
The Goat Parade: One of the things about having a win in the first game, for a team not used to winning much in recent seasons, is that many, maybe even all of the players look good. But if I had to highlight a few, I'd certainly say Mauro Rosales did what observers were hoping he would do when he was traded to Chivas in the offseason, setting up goals against Chicago from both the run of play and on a set piece. If he can continue to do that, and just as important, remain healthy, Chivas should be substantially better on the attack.
I'd also highlight winger Leandro Barrera, signed from Argentina who didn't have a glowing resume entering MLS, but who was lively and set up one of the goals Sunday. Finally, I expected the holding midfield tandem of Oswaldo Minda and newcomer Agustin Pelletieri, another Argentine, to be strong this season, and in the first match, I was not disappointed.
86F: The club has gone through some ownership troubles. How has that affected the team, or the fans?
TGP: Well, the actual change in owners was shocking, though there had been signs for more than a year that former owner Jorge Vergara was angling to get rid of the team. While it is worth acknowledging the fans who believe the change and future rebrand of the club is sad or at least bittersweet, from the fans I've spoken to the overwhelming sentiment is relief, that Vergara is gone, expectation that the team will move in a positive direction, and excitement for the future. If the future is indeed brighter, that will be considerable consolation for a fanbase that has been through so much of late.
Among the players, there is a palpable feeling of relief among the handful of returning guys, too, but they are downplaying it publicly. In addition, the company line last weekend was that the team itself is looking ahead, and they have basically wiped the slate clean and are starting over. I know that teams frequently do this, but in the case of Chivas USA, it seems especially prudent.
86F: Many wrote off Chivas for 2014, given how rough last season was. After the opening season win, do you expect them to continue to make ground, or fall again?
TGP:Truthfully, I think Chivas will fall in the middle of those extremes. I still don't think they have enough talent to be any kind of contender, and just being competitive will be an accomplishment. And obviously, we'll have to see how things go, but as long as they don't go on sustained losing streaks, go months without scoring, or let in four, five, six goals on a regular basis, it's going to count as progress in my book. They have a long way to go and still have some real holes in their roster, but no question things are looking up for the moment, on and off the field.
86F: How about a prediction for the match?
TGP: I'm going for a tough 1-1 draw. Both teams will have confidence, both will find frustration in the match on Sunday, and the points will be split.