Despite Chivas USA's recent accomplishments -- including making the playoffs the last two Major League Soccer seasons -- Chivas remains Los Angeles' other soccer team.
In years past that would have bothered Chivas, but simply being better than the Galaxy is no longer a focus. Thanks to its breakout season in 2007 when Chivas (15-7-8) won the Western Conference, the team enters its fourth season as one of the favorites to win the MLS Cup.
Thirteen players from last season, and all of its starters, are back for 2008.
The team's biggest question mark is whether Brad Guzan, reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year, will remain with the team through the season. Guzan, 23, came close to signing with an English team in January, but he was denied a work permit. European teams are likely to pursue Guzan in June when the MLS transfer window reopens.
Nonetheless, Chivas figures to be a force down the stretch.
The team re-signed veteran defender Claudio Suarez, 39, and midfielder Francisco Mendoza to one-year deals. The team also addressed its lack of depth up front by trading for forwards Atiba Harris and Alecko Eskandarian in separate deals with Real Salt Lake. Chivas also traded for Chicago Fire defender Jim Curtin to bolster the defense.
Chivas' biggest acquisition was the signing of Swiss international Raphael Wicky, a midfielder with defensive skills and World Cup experience.
Chivas might also sign someone from the Mexican league during the summer as a designated player.
Chivas plays its season opener today at Dallas, but its starting lineup is likely to be juggled throughout the year. Chivas will play in four competitions this season -- including their first two international tournaments, SuperLiga and the newly formatted CONCACAF Champions League -- and Coach Preki has told his players to abandon the idea of starting every game.
"He's told guys, right up front, there's not one player that's going to play every game this year," midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. "There's going to be, probably, 50-plus games . . . guys are going to need rest."
Because of Chivas' success last season, opponents are not likely to overlook the Red-and-White anymore.
"Maybe we're the ones who everyone is looking to beat," defender Jonathan Bornstein said.
Last year's run makes Chivas more prepared for this season, but even if it wins the MLS Cup in November, it is still likely to be known as L.A.'s other soccer team.
"This is definitely the underdog brand in town," Chivas USA President Shawn Hunter said. "And we plan to keep it that way because good things happen to the underdog."
vs. FC Dallas, noon PDT TeleFutura, FSN Prime
Site -- Pizza Hut Park, Dallas.
Radio -- 690
Records (2007) -- Chivas 15-7-8, Dallas 13-12-5.
Update -- Defender Claudio Suarez will sit out the opener because of the death of his father. Jim Curtin will start in his place. Chivas USA hasn't fared well in Texas: The team is 1-6-3 all-time when playing in Dallas and Houston.
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The Chivas USA alphabetical roster:
*--* No. Player Pos. Age 13 Jonathan Bornstein D 23 3 Jim Curtin D 28 7 Alecko Eskandarian F 25 11 Maykel Galindo F 27 18 Brad Guzan GK 23 24 Atiba Harris M-F 23 16 Sacha Kljestan M 22 15 Jesse Marsch M 34 6 Francisco Mendoza M 22 5 Paulo Nagamura M 25 12 Chris Pozniak D 27 9 Ante Razov F 34 2 Claudio Suarez D 39 4 Shavar Thomas D 27 25 Lawson Vaughn D 23 8 Raphael Wicky M 30 23 Alex Zotinca D 31 *--*