New-look Chivas has Union's attention

New-look Chivas has Union's attention

July 11, 2013, 11:00 am
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Friday's meeting between the Union and Chivas USA will be the first-ever MLS battle between twins Michael and Gabriel Farfan. (USA Today Images)

There was a time in early June when Friday night’s match against Chivas USA at PPL Park would have been a walkover for the Union.

The laughing stock of MLS, Chivas was in freefall before a new coach and fresh defensive reorganization suddenly has things looking up for the Goats.

“Chivas with their new coach has done a fantastic job restructuring that group,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “We’re impressed with how they’ve played their first two games on the road trip.

“Their organization has improved dramatically. We know it will be difficult and it’s a different situation facing them than the last four games we’ve had.”

Allowing three goals in their last four games and earning three-straight draws against quality competition, Chivas is rolling under coach Jose Luis Real, who replaced Jose Luis Sanchez Sola in late May.

The reinvention of Chivas (3-10-5) has the Union’s attention.

“You have to throw out everything they did before coach Real came in,” Hackworth said. “They’ve changed so much. They are a more defensive team, they keep a lot of numbers behind the ball and are being patient. They are organized. We’ll look at all the games under coach Real and it’s a big difference from before.”

Over Chivas’ dramatic seven-game losing drought, the club allowed 19 goals. During their recent three-game unbeaten run, they have only allowed two goals.

“It’s a challenge for us because we haven’t been as good against teams that have sat back,” Hackworth said, whose club owns the fourth-best offense in the Eastern Conference.  “We’re a team that likes to attack from the start, but when you sit numbers behind the ball, it’s difficult to break down.

“It’s something we’ve been working on and hopefully we can break through Friday. The longer the game goes without a goal it’ll make it extremely difficult.”

And that back line could get some reinforcement Friday.

After being an unused sub for the last two games, former U.S. Men’s National Team captain and defender Carlos Bocanegra could make his on-field Chivas debut against the Union.

“We know Carlos really well,” Hackworth said. “He’s a fantastic player and makes them a lot better. He brings instant leadership and organizing the back line. My expectation is that he will play and that will be hard for us to break down. I expect him to be in good form.”

Allowing a stoppage-time goal to Real Salt Lake and dropping a lifeless 1-0 game to the Houston Dynamo in four days, the Union (7-6-6) consider their recent road trip nothing short of disappointing.

“The test for us is to try and see if we can rebound from that in a positive way,” Hackworth said. “It’s really important for us to get points in these upcoming games.”

To do against Chivas, the Union will need to kick up their attack.

Already without Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel -- both serving Gold Cup duty -- the Union went without injury Danny Cruz, Kleberson and Michael Farfan against the Dynamo and struggled as a result.

All three are expected back Friday.

“Michael and Danny are better, both have been training in full the last two days,” Hackworth said. “Kleberson is better, but we’re not sure he’ll be 100-percent for Friday. [Michael] Lahoud tried training but couldn’t make a whole session.

“The three guys training in full have a great chance to play. We missed them in Houston and it’ll be great to have them back.”

Friday will also mean the first-ever battle between twins Michael Farfan and Gabe Farfan (Chivas), who was traded to the Goats on May 14. Although the two are family, they share a nasty competitive streak.

“They’re going to put family and personal issues aside and beat each other up a little bit on Friday,” Hackworth said. “They will compete hard and that’s what everyone wants to see. I had a chance to talk to Gabe this week and he’s in a good place. We’re happy for him and not happy we’re playing against him.”