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Whitecaps FC-Chivas USA Preview

AP - Sports

With the disappointment Chivas USA and the Vancouver Whitecaps both experienced in 2013 now in the past, each side can build on a promising start to this season when they meet Sunday in Southern California.

Perhaps no team in MLS needed a season-opening victory more than Chivas, which went 6-20-8 to finish with a Western Conference-low 26 points and miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. The worst season since the club debuted in 2005 with 18 points marked another dark moment for the Los Angeles-area's second MLS team, which has struggled with low attendance and had its franchise rights purchased by the league in February from Club Deportivo Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara.

In its first match under coach Wilmer Cabrera, Chivas blew a two-goal lead but beat Chicago 3-2 last Sunday when Bobby Burling headed home Mauro Rosales' corner kick in the 88th minute.

"(The opener) was an important victory for the team," Cabrera told Chivas' official website. "Now they are focused to leave it behind and think about our next opponent."

Cabrera knows his team can play better, especially after some defensive lapses allowed the Fire to tie the match with two goals over a six-minute span of the second half.

"There's still room for improvement and the players are conscious about that and it's easy when we all know that we are on the same page," he said.

"We need to improve in our tactics, in our technique. We need to improve in our concentration throughout the entire 90 minutes, we need to improve in our finishing, and we need to improve individually and collectively."

Though Chivas is 1-3-4 all-time versus Vancouver, that victory came in the teams' most recent meeting in Southern California, 2-1 on March 30.

Erick Torres, who had a team-high seven goals last season and opened the scoring against Chicago, scored twice as Chivas played to a 2-2 draw at Vancouver on Sept. 1 in the clubs' last matchup. The Whitecaps salvaged the tie with a goal in stoppage time.

Vancouver went 13-12-9 for a club-record 48 points in 2013 but finished seventh in the West and three points out of the final playoff spot, one season after qualifying with 43 points in its second year of existence.

The Whitecaps look to start 2-0 for a third straight season after Kenny Miller scored twice and Pedro Morales added a goal with an assist in his MLS debut in last Saturday's 4-1 win over New York.

"It's just the beginning," said first-year coach Carl Robinson, who played his final two MLS seasons for the Red Bulls in 2010-2011. "We know we've got a lot of work to do.

"It's important that they start off on the right foot. It's important that I keep pushing them to those standards ... it's important that you do enjoy it when you do do well. We did well (last Saturday), we got our reward, but it's the first game. There's still 33 games to go."

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