It's safe to say the injury bug has hit Chivas USA just in time to mess with the regular season. After Michael Lahoud, John Valencia and Alejandro Moreno were out last week against the Houston Dynamo in the home opener, Robin Fraser had to improvise a little and test the purported improved squad depth from First Kick. The midfield was reconfigured, and Juan Pablo Angel was started alone up top, while Rauwshan McKenzie started at center back. Although the game ended in a loss, it was a promising performance, assuming Chivas can pick it up as the weeks move forward.
Now, however, there are more injury problems. Lahoud's still out, while Valencia may start Saturday. But the experienced forwards in the squad, Moreno and Angel, are likely both out against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Moreno suffered a broken nose in the preseason tournament in Portland, got surgery, evidently decided to play with a face mask that's all the rage in LA now what with Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul both sporting them, then broke his nose again against the LA Blues Monday in the reserve match. Ale's got to watch out, or if he breaks his nose too many times or too severely, he could do permanent damage.Meanwhile, JPA is out with "just a little bit of precautionary measures with concussion protocol," according to Robin Fraser (as reported by Adam Serrano on the league website and Scott French on ESPN). Did you notice that wording? It doesn't sound like he was diagnosed with a concussion, but with concussion-like symptoms. Even though I'm glad to see Angel going through the concussion protocol, I wonder if the wording is a way of avoiding part of the protocol, or perhaps even possible sanctions for letting him play last week. You see, he apparently suffered the head injury in the Portland tournament too. I assume if it is indeed a concussion, it was a rather mild one. Still, considering the cautionary tales of a number of MLS players, including Jimmy Conrad last season, this is a concerning situation and we hope JPA makes a safe and speedy recovery.
Now, Serrano and French both report that Moreno and JPA are not considered out for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if neither features. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure heading into the season where or how often Moreno would play, though if JPA was normally out, certainly you would expect Moreno to feature. But Angel's loss is potentially very significant, as the attack is essentially running through him, at least until another player (or ideally several) steps up.
So, who does that leave for Saturday? Most likely, newbies Casey Townsend and Cesar Romero. They are very green, so this could be a very bad move, but there's few alternatives at the moment (although Miller Bolanos could also slot in, but he hasn't seen the field yet in MLS so I doubt he would start up top). Both guys are on the small side, but I was really impressed with Townsend's ability on headers on Sunday, as he was one of the few Chivas players on the day able to win them, while Romero is speedy and crafty, and comfortable along the wing. The big question is if either or both of these guys will take shots and make them count. It's an open question at the moment.
It's also likely that Fraser will use the same formation he used last week, a 4-2-3-1, so either Townsend or Romero will start, and the other will likely come on during the match. But considering Chivas' pathetic attack last week, Fraser may budget another striker in the lineup to try and jumpstart the offense.
At any rate, it looks like this team is doing the forward shuffle for the time being.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!