April 6, 2007 Chivas USA vs Toronto FC pre-game (from MLSnet.com)

04/06/2007 12:31PM
Chivas won't be friendly hosts
By Luis Bueno / MLSnet.com Staff

CARSON, Calif. - When Toronto FC visits Chivas USA on Saturday, Jesse Marsch said he hopes to give the expansion team a taste of what to expect from Major League Soccer competition. "They're coming into our stadium and we kind of want to welcome them into the league by showing them the level of soccer that can be played," the Chivas USA midfielder said.

Chivas USA will have the task of officially welcoming Canada's first MLS side to the league when the two sides meet at The Home Depot Center. Toronto FC is where Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake were two years ago. However, unlike their U.S. counterparts, the Canadian side has the makings of an experienced club right from the start.

"The thing is they're not truly an expansion team because they have about eight or nine guys who have played many, many minutes in MLS," Chivas USA coach Preki said.

Toronto FC will feature the likes of Richard Mulrooney, Alecko Eskandarian and Paulo Nagamura, all of whom have won an MLS Cup title. Former Red Bulls coach Mo Johnston leads the club while longtime Kansas City Wizards boss Bob Gansler serves as an assistant coach as the experience carries over onto the bench.

Although Toronto FC's record is non-existent, Chivas USA thinks highly of their opponents.

"Yeah, they're an expansion team because this is their first game in franchise history and all that," Preki said. "We're not taking this game lightly at all. This is a very, very important game."

Only four players remain on Chivas USA from their own first-ever match, a 2-0 loss to D.C. United on April 2, 2005: Brad Guzan, Francisco Mendoza, Matt Taylor and Orlando Perez. Marsch, though, said he knew from experience what kind of mindset an expansion team had.

"I've played my handful of expansion teams over the years and I've been in an expansion team," said Marsch, who joined Chivas USA from Chicago last season, where he won an MLS Cup with the expansion Fire in 1998. "In some ways, those teams aren't real sure what it's going to be like on Opening Day. You hope that with our experience we can kind of raise the level and kind of put them under more pressure than they've been before in any preseason games. That's our challenge."

Toronto FC is missing one of its prized acquisitions. Midfield standout Ronnie O'Brien could be out up to six weeks after he injured a knee in training earlier this week. Still, Chivas USA must deal with Edson Buddle and former Premiership player Jim Brennan.

What Chivas USA has that Toronto FC does not is the experience of playing collectively in meaningful league matches. It's that experience that Marsch said his side would have to maximize.

"That's not say they're not ready to play that but you certainly have to try and push it as much as you can so that their inexperience as a group in this league will cost them a little bit," Marsch said. "Hopefully that's where our experience will come in."

Saturday's game is the first to be aired on "MLS Saturday on FSC." Fox Soccer Channel's coverage includes a pregame show starting at 10 p.m. ET and a half-hour postgame show after the match.

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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