CARSON, CA - APRIL 30: Back in LaBrocca's afro era (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Ahead of tomorrow's game between Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, it is time for three questions! This week, we welcome Steve Stoehr of the Revs blog The Bent Musket to answer some questions about New England. Below his answers to my questions, you'll find my answers to his questions. Let's see what's going on for the Revolution.
The Goat Parade asks The Bent Musket:
1. The big news this week for New England was the announcement of the signing of the club's first ever designated player, Milton Caraglio. What do you hope he provides the Revs, and do you think his signing will reverse some of the team's recent history in obtaining foreign players?
For one, I really hope he provides a boost in belief and excitement for this team. Life as a New England fan (and, by some reports, player) right now is gloomy and dark, with a constant expectation of failure, so hopefully this guy can reignite the spark in this team and get the fans and players going in the right direction. Apart from that, I obviously hope he's the attacking presence the Revs have been missing for the last few seasons and he provides goals and chances for the forwards.As far as the last part of your question, though, the jury is still out. I simply cannot have confidence in this front office's ability to accurately and adequately scout players from abroad before bringing them in. He even has a serious knee injury on his resume; I can already see the excuses and apologies made concerning turf and previous fitness problems as he rots on the training table for the duration of his contract. Until I see Caraglio in action I won't be able to make a judgment on whether or not he reverses the trend.
2. Earlier this year, Benny Feilhaber came to MLS through the league allocation order, and landed in New England. Before he was offered to the Revs, however, Chivas USA somewhat controversially declined to pick him up. How has he played for New England so far, and do you think he will be a centerpiece of the squad moving forward?
Benny's played very well for the Revs so far, even if his impact hasn't been as statistically significant as first hoped. He's created a few goals, scored one, and generally looked a class apart. That said, his frustration, both with quality of officiating and quality of play around him, has been painfully obvious since he arrived. While I'm never an advocate of showing up your teammates on the pitch and berating them publicly, it's impossible not to think about how good he really could be here if the guys around him knew to do the things he admonishes them to do.
3. New England is having a difficult season, but they have played better lately. What do you expect to see from them Saturday, and what are the team's goals for the rest of the season?
I expect a dogged home performance on Saturday. Chivas has been giving the Revs trouble in the last half dozen meetings or so, and with the Goats playing so well lately I can't imagine this weekend will be any different. New England will probably come out with some energy, but they will struggle to possess the ball and will have to be totally on their set-piece and defensive game to get a positive home result. For the rest of the season, the goal has to be to not be last. If the Revs can show marked improvement in their play by the end of the year, then at least fans will have the specter of improvement to look forward to next year. Hoping for anything more than that would be ridiculous.
The Bent Musket asks The Goat Parade:
1.) Chivas had a slightly rough start to Robin Fraser's tenure at the helm, but despite sitting at 6th in the Western Conference they've also produced some very encouraging displays and surprised more than a few people. What's been the secret to the team's good performances, and what do they have to do to make those happen more consistently?
I think Fraser has the attention of the squad, and there seems to be a real team ethic in most games they've played this season. Considering the squad is made up of role players for the most part, guys have been willing to buy into Fraser's system and take advantage of the playing time they might not otherwise see on a more successful team. I also think Fraser has demonstrated a capacity to implement a tactical plan well, but also make adjustments from game to game and occasionally within a game. It is too soon to tell if Fraser will be a good coach, but the signs are promising.
In order for the team to play well on a consistent basis, I think the team needs to make some upgrades. The team has made some moves, and French midfielder Laurent Courtois is expected to make his debut Saturday. I think the preliminary expectation is that he will provide service on the attacking end, something Chivas desperately need. It will probably be too soon to see him this weekend, but Chivas are also bringing in a center back, David Junior Lopes, who is expected to provide some size and skill to the backline. And Fraser indicated this week that the team is looking for a striker, which has to be the number one weakness on the squad this season, so if these signings pan out, Chivas will have a more talented and competitive team from week to week.
2.) Nick LaBrocca has experienced a total career renaissance with the Goats this season. A serviceable MLS defensive midfielder with Colorado and Toronto in previous seasons, he's relished the advanced role Fraser gave him this year and returned the favor with six goals, which is more than he scored in his entire career before this year. How do you explain this completely unexpected turnaround? Is it a fluke, or do you think this is the Nick LaBrocca we'll continue to see for seasons to come?
The main reason LaBrocca has emerged this season is because there was a vacuum on the team in attack, and he stepped up and has delivered. With a new coach and a lack of options in attack, especially in the first month of the season when injuries decimated the squad, LaBrocca was able to work his way up and has slowly worked his way into becoming the team MVP at this point. Believe me, Chivas fans did not expect this emergence either, but we appreciate it. I don't think it is a fluke either, as he has been contributing steadily all season, not in scoring hat tricks and then disappearing for weeks. As for the future, I think as long as there is no true attacking midfielder able to pull the strings and score consistently for Chivas, LaBrocca's role looks secure, and if a player is brought in, his experience as a defensive midfielder gives him the versatility to make an impact in a variety of positions.
3.) Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
I think Blair Gavin is a player who may have an impact on Saturday. He missed most of the season with a hamstring injury, but recently returned and is rounding into form. A midfielder with attacking creativity, Gavin gives the team a spark that is often missing from the team. His ability coupled with the team's work rate means he may be able to provide the assist or even link-up pass to get a scoring chance for Chivas. Since the attention on the offensive end will be on LaBrocca and on Courtois as a new player, Gavin may slip under the radar and surprise the Revs on Saturday.
4.) Who do you think Chivas USA fears most on the pitch for New England?
The easy answer is that Chivas will probably make an extra effort to stop Benny Feilhaber since they declined to pick him up earlier this season, and will not want him to show what they are missing. But I think more realistically Chivas know Shalrie Joseph has the quality to really make opponents pay for mistakes and will seek to neutralize him as much as possible.
5.) Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
My best guess for Chivas starting XI would be:
GK: Dan Kennedy; DEF: Zarek Valentin, Michael Umana, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic
MF: Michael Lahoud (DM), Jorge Flores, Simon Elliott, Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin
FW: Justin Braun
Score: Chivas win 1-0.