TUKWILA, Wash. – Chivas USA has been an easy target for a cheap laugh on multiple fronts in Major League Soccer.
Attendance has been worst in the league since 2012, sometimes with embarrassingly small turnouts. Performance hasn’t been much better, with three last-place finishes in the Western Conference the past four seasons (the other finish was second-to-last).
Add all that to Sounders FC’s 11-game unbeaten streak head-to-head, an impressive run that dates to 2009, and tonight’s 7:30 p.m. road game against Chivas might seem like a walkover for the Sounders.
That’s not how Seattle is viewing it.
“Chivas is a different team this year,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “The way they play, the team spirit – everything.”
A franchise-wide transformation has been a deliberate process, particularly as the Los Angeles-based team still draws an MLS-low 10,000 fans per game. But signs have been encouraging.
The coach is new, the president is new and a popular ex-Sounder is at the forefront of an on-the-field makeover. That player? Mauro Rosales, Seattle’s former captain and co-leader in career assists.
Rosales, according to the Sounders, was a salary-cap casualty who didn’t have a place on the roster once the team made midfielder Osvaldo Alonso a designated player. MLS clubs are only allowed three DPs, and Seattle already had high-priced stars Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins under contract.
Rosales’ performance has persisted with Chivas, as his three assists are tied for second in MLS. The Sounders fully expect their ex-teammate will be plenty motivated tonight, regardless of the nature of his departure.
“No matter what he says,” Evans said, “he’s got a point to prove.”