Chivas USA out to raise bar against Columbus

Goats seek first win of season with Valentin back in fold

CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA earned their first point on the road against Toronto FC last week and now they’re out to raise the bar when they try for their first victory on Saturday against the Columbus Crew (10:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).

While there were several positives against Toronto, the Rojiblancos will be aspiring to put in a complete performance and avoid the mental lapses that led to breakdowns in that mach.

When Robin Fraser’s group takes the field against the Crew, they will likely welcome rookie Zarek Valentin back to the starting lineup. The defender returned to Carson on Thursday after the US U-20 team were ousted from the CONCACAF Championship by host country Guatemala and should be deployed in the back line alongside Heath Pearce, who put in a good performance against TFC.

After employing a number of combinations in the defense due to Valentin’s absence and the subsequent loss of Jimmy Conrad to a concussion, Fraser is pleased that the rookie has returned to the fold.

“Definitely expecting him to come in and be ready,” the coach said. “We’re monitoring how he feels, but there’s a good chance that he could be in the lineup. There’s a mind set when you’re with the national team and his focus is very different than what it is here. All of a sudden that dream ends and now he has realize that he has another focus, which is winning MLS games.”

The rest of the Goats' starting 11 against Columbus should be composed of players who helped earn the result at BMO. One such player that appears set to resume a starting role is goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Should Kennedy get the nod, it will be his third straight competitive match for Chivas USA and his second straight MLS contest since taking over for Zach Thornton. Over the last few years, Kennedy has battled a number of injuries, including one to the knee and a torn bicep tendon, but he is now positioned to cement his place in the lineup.

Not wanting to create a goalkeeping controversy, Fraser stated potential lineup battles at any position is merely just part of the game.

“You have to be honest with the players," he said. "It’s a situation with anyone that is not in the 11 or in the 18 that you try to be as honest as possible. At the end of the day, players don’t necessarily like those discussions.”

“Hopefully they respect that you are being honest. They’re all professionals and, just by being contractually bound, you still need to work hard,” he added. “If you’re a professional, you realize that this just part of the game.”

One player, who was absent on Friday for the Rojiblancos is midfielder Blair Gavin, who has left the team for the next eight days to see a specialist in Germany for his injured hamstring.

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSSoccer.com, he can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com or on Twitter: @adamserrano