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Previewing Chivas USA at Columbus Crew with Alicia Rodriguez of The Goat Parade

The Crew and Chivas meet for the first and only time this year, so I went to an expert on the team to get some insight on the Goats.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is a rare Sunday game between the Columbus Crew and Chivas USA, the only meeting of the year between two sides from different conferences.

The Crew enter this game looking to rebound from a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Impact last Saturday, which ended their run of two impresses wins on the trot.

Chivas on the other hand has struggled all season, with just six wins and 24 points on the year. They sit at the bottom of the Western Conference any hopes of the playoffs are all but out the door.

Looking for some information on the Goats, I reached out to Alicia Rodriguez of SB Nation's The Goat Parade to learn about L.A.'s other MLS team.

Warning: Quote from Alicia preceding her answers, "Sorry this is so negative...I do derive pleasure at times from soccer but it's been a tough week, and I can't sugarcoat it."

Questions for The Goat Parade

MR: How has all the chaos of the offseason, the lawsuit against former owner Jorge Vergara that forced the league into purchasing CUSA, impacted the team on the field in 2014?

The Goat Parade: It's been a very difficult season, but considering the turmoil the past few years, it merely feels like a new kind of difficult. Don't get me wrong, I don't think anybody but Jorge Vergara's relatives wanted him to stay on as owner, but with the team stuck in a holding pattern, with the league saying the team will be getting a new owner and complete rebrand soon, there is still extreme concern those plans will fall apart and the beleaguered fanbase will be left without a team, despite putting up with some truly horrible times.

I think it's important to emphasize that the failures of this club are directly attributable to a lack of investment for essentially the club's entirely history, a situation that became downright dire the past two years. Slashing the team's payroll to a good half million dollars less than the next-cheapest team in MLS, firing the front office, academy, and support staff multiple times in the four years I've covered this team daily, doing zero meaningful marketing in the area the past two years, and continually renting out their biggest rivals' stadium as their "home" has been reflected in a bad on-field product and a dwindling number of fans. While we hoped the league would help turn the ship around, I think it's becoming clear that the benefit of having MLS in charge of the club is that it didn't get worse. But have matters changed much for the better? Not really. On a daily basis, I hope the league can find a good committed owner for this club in Los Angeles, and soon.

MR: Aside from any off-field issues, tell Crew fans who may not have seen much of Chivas this year what have been the causes of the current last place position.

TGP: The team has their fourth head coach in three seasons, and the roster has been totally overhauled three times (actually, the roster has been in continual churn since the start of 2013). This team is really desperate for stability, but also for talent. It would not be enough for Chivas to simply keep the current roster as is, but the revolving door hurts players who do have talent but get swallowed by all the changes and turmoil that surrounds the team.

On a more specific level, this team has struggled to both defend well and score regularly. Obviously, that's the worst possible combination, and the stats bear that out. I will say that CUSA are capable of playing well at times, and actually look like a decent team in MLS. The issue is that those moments when the group click and play well together are just too few and far between.

And to add insult to injury, Carlos Bocanegra, who has been out for over a month with a concussion, announced his retirement (at the end of the season) this week, and the team has never won when he's been out of the lineup. The same goes for Erick Torres, who plays nearly every game but has gotten a well-deserved call-up to the Mexican national team. On short rest, after giving up seven goals in four days, traveling to the Midwest...maybe they can summon some magic, but this game looks very, very difficult for the Goats on paper.

MR: Erick Torres has certainly been a bright spot this year with his 14 goals, doubling his 2013 numbers. How has he been able to be so successful despite the struggles of the rest of the team? Who else should fans of the Black and Gold be aware of on Sunday?

TGP: I think the easy answer is that Torres is a truly elite talent, and he's able to do things that only a handful of players in the league can. If I'm being honest, if he played for any other team, one that had even a modicum of better service to strikers than CUSA, he'd probably be in the lead in the Golden Boot race right now. Although he hit a slump as he simply can't score every single game with none of his teammates helping out, being without him for this game is still a big loss.

As far as other options, there are plenty of players with potential but not much certainty. One of the notable names is probably Ryan Finley, who Crew fans are familiar with, and I figure he'll start and will probably have extra motivation against his old team. He scored a penalty on Wednesday to open his MLS account for Chivas, and maybe that can help him finish the season strong. Besides him, Ecuadorian newcomers Felix Borja and Luis Bolanos could emerge, as could veteran wingers Eric Avila and Marvin Chavez. Argentine winger Leandro Barrera started the season well, but has gone off the boil lately.

The reality is that this team just came out of a 597-minute scoreless streak. They did score two goals in their last game, but I think it's a decent bet Chivas will have trouble finding the back of the net in Columbus.

Questions for Massive Report

The Goat Parade: Columbus made a pretty significant splash in the offseason when they hired Gregg Berhalter as head coach. It seems Berhalter has made efforts to transform the team's playing style, but the results have been mixed. How would you assess Berhalter so far, and does he seem like the man to bring the Crew back to the top of MLS?

Massive Report: I think Berhalter has done well this year. If I had to give him a grade, it would be a B+ this year. The team is very much a work in progress as he attempts to build the team in his image. Robert Warzycha left the team with a lack of a recognizable system when he was fired and Berhalter is looking to fix that issue.

The season started brightly with three straight wins, but subsequently hit bumps. The Crew have played entertaining, possession-based soccer all season but recently things have started to come together. The players are really starting to grasp the system and they are beginning to get comfortable. Aside from last week's 2-0 loss to Montreal where the team seemed slightly disinterested, it appears the Black and Gold are hitting their stride.

TGP: Unlike Chivas, the Crew have maintained considerable stability over the years. Looking at if from the other side, so to speak, do you think Columbus' practice of making incremental changes has been a good policy for the club?

MR: For the most part it has gone well. I will say the last year has brought more drastic changes than the organization had ever experienced with Anthony Precourt purchasing the team last July, the appointment of Berhalter and basically a new staff, the departure of president Mark McCullers, and the recent appointment of Andy Loughnane as President of Business Operations.

With that said, I think the Crew's approach of consistency certainly helped them. Their two major trophies, the 2002 U.S. Open Cup and the 2008 MLS Cup, came under the direction of head coaches who had time to get familiar with the organization - Greg Andrulis was an assistant coach since 1996 before becoming head coach in 2001 and Sigi Schmid was the boss for three seasons before winning the Cup - and kept many of the front office personnel.

In conclusion, it was certainly time for a change to get things moving back in the right direction, but there is certainly a history of success based on consistency.

TGP: Despite the stability, the Crew do have a relatively-new owner and promises of a brand revamp coming soon. With CUSA really hoping to get a good owner very soon, tell us what it's been like under Anthony Precourt the past year or so.

MR: Precourt has been fantastic thus far as an owner. Despite living on the west coast, Precourt is frequently back for events in Columbus and is active with the team and the fans alike. So far he has significantly upgraded the locker rooms at both Columbus Crew Stadium and the team's training facility. The scoreboard at Crew Stadium got a much needed renovation with a new HD screen that also allows for more advertising. All of this is among other smaller things.

He also has done well with his hires thus far. As I said above, I think Berhalter is a good hire that will do better as time passes. Precourt has made the changes he felt necessary and though it has only been a short time, they seem to be moving in the right direction.

TGP: (Bonus) Prediction for this game?

MR: Although the Crew were disappointing a week ago, Berhalter and the team believe they will get back to the way they played in the two previous weeks (4-1 over the LA Galaxy and 3-0 over the Houston Dynamo). I'm going to say they get back on a track with a 2-0 win.