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Fireside Chat: 3 Questions On Chivas USA vs. Chicago Fire

Goat Parade editor Alicia Ratterree answers our queries about Chivas USA, and we respond in kind. Oh my goodness, it's almost time for real games! SB Nation 2014 MLS preview

Patrick Nyarko (R) won't have to deal with Jorge Villafana's insane work ethic this weekend, as Villafana is now a Portland Timbers player.
Patrick Nyarko (R) won't have to deal with Jorge Villafana's insane work ethic this weekend, as Villafana is now a Portland Timbers player.
Hot Time asks: Everyone's curious about the mood around the Ameri-Goats camp. So which is it: Dead Man Walking, or Shawshank Redemption?

Orange is the New Black? Okay, I think the mood is more optimistic heading into the season, though the expectations are probably going to remain pretty low. The hole this team will have to climb out of, especially coming off the heels of a disastrous 2013, will take a lot of time and patience to accomplish. But the new coach, new signings, and probably most crucially, new owners, provide hope, something that simply was not present through much of last year.

It must be noted that there are fans who are disappointed Jorge Vergara is no longer Chivas USA's owner. But generally, folks are happy about the change. Players have frequently talked about being protected from a lot of the bad publicity and mismanagement of the past, but from what I've learned, they also seem pretty happy overall with the shift. I think the hope is that they go out and play like the weight has been lifted, and can actually become a respectable team once again.

Hot Time asks: Has Wilmer Cabrera tipped his hand tactically this preseason? How will Chivas line up?

Honestly, he's played around with a lot of different formations in the preseason, playing three at the back at times (I don't think he'll be doing that with any regularity, probably only when chasing games), and switching back and forth between a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. I think the formation should probably be called a 4-4-2, but one of those midfielders will roam around in the attack and will effectively become a third forward, depending on who is out on the field.

The other notable trend is that Cabrera looks like he will play two holding midfielders, perhaps conceding the shakiness of the defense heading into the season. Though two of those midfielders are new to the league in Argentine Agustin Pelletieri and Spaniard Dani Fragoso to pair alongside Oswaldo Minda, my expectation is that this position will be an area of strength for the Goats as the season wears on.

Hot Time asks: CUSA's roster seems oddly polarized between youth (10 players 23 and under) and age (8 players over 30). Which of the young guys has a chance to shine? Which of the old guys will be an important part of the roster come September?

The youngster with the greatest expectations is unquestionably Erick Torres, who led the team in scoring last season after joining in the summer. If he can actually be among the league leaders in scoring, which he is capable of doing, Chivas should be in a good position in the standings. I also think rookie Thomas McNamara could be one of the surprises of the 2014 draft class.

On the older end, the holding midfielders I referenced above, Minda, Pelletieri, and Fragoso, will likely prove pivotal to Chivas' prospects. The same goes for Carlos Bocanegra, who improved the Goats' defense upon his arrival last year, but who still needs to bounce back from an inconsistent first season back in the league. There's still a talent deficit on this team, so if they are to improve this year, they're going to need all hands on deck.

(Bonus) Prediction for the game?

Chivas win 2-1. They have a coach who knows the league now, and will have done his homework on a remade Fire side, and after going down a goal, the Goats dig deep and get the comeback win.

The Goat Parade also asked Hot Time three questions - to see those answers, click through here!