'13 Season Preview: New-look Chivas hoping to surprise in 2013

4:29 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Carson, CA (Sports Network) - Chivas USA has not had much to celebrate in its eight-year tenure in Major League Soccer.

The Goats come into the new season riding a three-year playoff absence, finishing no higher than eighth place in the Western Conference over that stretch.

Even in the four times that Chivas has managed to make the postseason, the club failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals.

But the team's last-place finish in 2012 has given way to a new era in Chivas lore as Jose Luis Sanchez Sola has replaced Robin Fraser to seize control of the managerial duties.

Sola's arrival signals a return to the Hispanic movement for Chivas. The club initially came to MLS with the intention of having a strong link to its parent entity, Chivas de Guadalajara, and its Mexican heritage.

The manager's intentions were clear when he announced prior to the start of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft that Chivas would select Carlos Alvarez with the second overall pick. Not only does Alvarez's Hispanic background fit with the club's grand plan, but he has strong ties to Chivas as his father played for the Mexican club.

Chivas also added Eric Avila, Carlos Borja and Steve Purdy, but will they be enough to replace the big names that left the Goats in the offseason?

Juan Pablo Angel and Alejandro Moreno were not re-signed, putting a great deal of pressure on young striker Juan Agudelo to stay healthy and produce goals on a regular basis. It could be a make-or-break season for Agudelo, even as a 20- year-old.

Chivas lost a pair of midfield stalwarts in Shalrie Joseph and Nick LaBrocca, but Sola will be banking on Miller Bolanos and Oswaldo Minda finally coming good and fulfilling their potential.

It could be a case of addition by subtraction for Chivas this season. Angel, Moreno, Joseph and LaBrocca carry a lot of clout in terms of name recognition in MLS, but they were unable to fuse their individual abilities for the good of the team.

What Sola's squad may lack in quality it is likely to make up for with pace and aggression, characteristics that his current crop of players possess in spades.

It may be the perfect marriage of coach and roster that gets Chivas out of the Western Conference cellar, but if Sola is slow out of the gates, there may be some familiar headlines coming out of The Home Depot Center this season.

2012 IN REVIEW: League play left a lot to be desired from Chivas as the club finished bottom of the West and second from bottom overall with 30 points from 34 games. The team did fare well in the U.S. Open Cup, reaching the semifinals before being ousted by Seattle Sounders FC. The Goats also managed to rattle off some impressive wins against Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy, but that did little to overshadow an otherwise dismal campaign.

ACQUISITIONS: Carlos Alvarez (M), Eric Avila (M), Carlos Borja (D), Steve Purdy (D).

LOSSES: Juan Pablo Angel (F), Danny Califf (D), Shalrie Joseph (M), Nick LaBrocca (M), Alejandro Moreno (F).

OUTLOOK: The bright spot for Chivas is that it cannot get much worse. The bad news is that last season's playoff teams out of the Western Conference have experienced very little turnover while those that fell just short have retooled their squads. Chivas appears to have made much smaller strides, but they could be the ones this time. A playoff appearance this season would be massive for Chivas, a club in transition. Anything more would be icing on the cake.

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