BY ADAM SERRANO
It's a new era at Chivas USA and its fans hope that it will lead to a new mindset and greater success.
New Head Coach Robin Fraser has taken over for the Rojiblancos replacing Martin Vasquez, who was removed after a disappointing season that saw Chivas USA finish dead last in the Western Conference. Fraser has already started to remake the club in his own image, dispatching players like Giancarlo Maldonado and Rodolfo Espinoza and bringing in young players like Zarek Valentin and Victor Estupinan.
The new blood does not stop there with veteran players like Jimmy Conrad, Alejandro Moreno and young Tristan Bowen, each being added to the squad. In 2011, the squad will depend on the consistant play of forward Justin Braun, who led the team in scoring with nine goals and the continued growth of MLS sophomores Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin. In order to return to the playoffs, the club will have to answer a number of questions ranging from who will start for the club in goal and where the goals will come from.
Here is a look at the preseason plans of Chivas USA:
Training schedule: Feb. 4-5 at Home Depot Center; Feb. 11-18 in Casa Grande, Arizona; Feb. 20-March 18 at Home Depot Center.
Preseason game schedule: At Home Depot Center: Feb. 7 vs. San Jose Earthquakes; At Casa Grande: Feb. 12 vs. Seatle Sounders, Feb. 18 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps; At Home Depot Center: Feb. 25 vs. D.C. United; At Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas: March 12 vs. FC Dallas.
Key arrivals: F – Tristan Bowen, Alejandro Moreno, Victor Estupinan; D – Zarek Valentin, Jimmy Conrad.
Key departures: F – Maykel Galindo, Giancarlo Maldonado; MF – Rodolfo Espinoza, Osael Romero; D – Dario Delgado
What to watch for: Jimmy Conrad, the veteran defender will look to have a big impact on the club after their defense strugled in 2010 after surrendering 45 goals in 2010. In order to return to the playoffs, the Rojiblancos will need an impressive year from Blair Gavin. Gavin had a rookie of the year caliber season in 2010 until a hamstring injury in August ended his season. During the offseason, much of the buzz has been centered around newcomer Victor Estupinan, who predicted that he could score 25-30 goals in his debut season. Estupinan lead the LDU Quito reserve team in goals scored in 2010. The Rojiblancos currently boast a number of young players from the Chivas USA academy, like defender Bryan De La Fuente and midfielder Gersen Mayen, two players who pair may find their chance to find the field.
Of note: Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza is currently training with the club. Mendoza, a Chivas USA original spent the last two years in the Mexican league and is a non-roster invitee…Another big invitee to Chivas USA camp is Sergio Arias. Arias was the goalkeeper for Mexico when the nation won the 2005 U-17 World Championships in Peru…The Rojiblancos won opened their preseason on February 1st with a 2-0 victory over PDL side Fresno Fuego during their preseason camp in Paso Robles on the central California coast…Chivas USA will have a new "presentation sponsor" in 2011 as Corona Extra will sponsor the club.