MLS team preparing for 'serious game' against FC Tucson

2013-11-14T00:00:00Z MLS team preparing for 'serious game' against FC TucsonBy Dave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Chivas USA’s past season was one that even a goat would have trouble digesting.

The team, whose name refers — in Spanish — to the farm animal that will eat just about anything, was fed a steady diet of losses, lawsuits and disappointments during a 2013 Major League Soccer season that wrapped up about three weeks ago.

But before going their separate ways — taking time to decompress during the short offseason — the players and staff will take one last road trip to open the new Kino Sports Complex North Stadium with a match against FC Tucson on Friday at 7 p.m.

Owners of just six wins in 34 MLS matches this season, the Los Angeles-based club isn’t expected to take Friday night lightly.

“It is our goal to play our best players, and we’re taking it very serious,” Chivas USA director of soccer operations Francisco “Paco” Palencia said in a phone interview. “It is an honor for us to play this opening game.

“We want to keep training and play important games to try and keep like it is the season even when it is over. We don’t want to lose that shape or rhythm of the game. It’s good to have a serious game.”

A “serious” exhibition in Tucson would be a positive way to end a year that included two discrimination lawsuits against the club — a former executive alleged she was discriminated against because she wasn’t Latino and couldn’t speak Spanish, and two youth coaches claimed they were fired because they weren’t Mexican or Latino.

Turmoil also stretched to the sidelines, where one Jose Luis replaced another. In May, Jose Luis “El Guero” Real became the fourth coach since 2010, replacing Jose Luis “El Chelís” Sanchez Solar.

“It was a hard year for all of us,” said Eric Avila, who had three goals and two assists in 24 starts at right wing for Chivas USA this season. “We started out well, but we slowed down a little. We had inexperienced players. … When a new coach comes there are changes. We went back to basics.”

The transition continued when the club acquired former U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra in July. The defender returned to the MLS after 10 seasons in Europe.

“He’s the one who came in and shored up our back line,” said Avila, a 25-year-old San Diego native who played on the U.S. under-17 team. “He was really a calming influence.”

While Bocanegra brought calm, 20-year-old Erick “Cubo” Torres gave Chivas USA some excitement.

Torres, on loan from Chivas of Guadalajara, had seven goals in 15 starts this year. His bicycle-kick goal against Vancouver in September was an MLS Goal of the Year nominee.

“He is a pretty good player in the box,” said Palencia, who made 80 appearances and scored 12 goals for the Mexican national team over 14 years. “His positioning is pretty good. He’s young, and he’s got a way to go.”

“A way to go” — sounds like an apt way to describe how far Chivas USA needs to travel to be appetizing.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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