Photo by Juan Miranda/Chivas USA
On the year’s scariest night it’s perhaps apropos to chat with veteran Chivas USA striker Ante Razov, known as one of the moodiest players in MLS and one you always want to make sure is in a reasonably good one before approaching his locker after a game. So perhaps it’s for the best this interview was conducted via e-mail.
Still, Razov comes into the post-season fifth all-time in goals (11 in 33 games) and third behind active players (although neither D.C. United’s Jaime Moreno or Toronto’s Carlos Ruiz can add to their totals since their respective teams failed to make the playoffs). This is his time of the year.
A goal Saturday against Real Salt Lake ties Razov with Moreno in playoff goals; two ties him with Roy Lassiter. A hat-trick and he ties Landon Donovan. There’s motivation.
But Razov has struggled with injury this season and managed just five goals and six assists in 22 games. Having just recovered from his latest, the MLS original (one goal in three games for the Galaxy in 1996) is happy just to be still playing (I think).
In fact, I asked Razov how much longer he plans to play. He didn’t answer. I didn’t push it.
Q: How are you feeling physically? Are you fully recovered from your latest injury? Will you look to go an hour or so in the game Saturday or are you capable of going the full 90?
A: Yeah, I’m ready to go. I’ve played the last few games and this is it. There’s nothing to save myself for at this point, so I’ll put it all on the line. I expect to be out there [the whole time].
Q: Chivas USA has made the playoffs for the third straight year. The Galaxy have missed the post-season for the third straight year. Is that significant for the team or not something you worry about? Is the fact MLS Cup will be played on their field an extra source of motivation for the team?
A: It has nothing to with us. It’s not our problem. I would say yes, [that possibly playing MLS Cup here in Carson is extra motivation]. It would be a special treat for us, if we could do that, and then have a nice game here for our fans.
Q: If what I hear about midfielder-striker Atiba Harris is correct he picked up an injury in training Thursday and won’t play Saturday, just the latest in a mind-boggling series of injuries to players this year. How difficult is it not to have a consistent lineup of strikers and attacking midfielders from a forward’s point of view? Has it been more difficult to get into any sort of rhythm this season with all the changes to the lineup through injury?
A: Absolutely. In any team sport, if you change your lineup every game then it’s nearly impossible to get any rhythm and I think it shows in the way we’ve played at times. Defensively, you can always be tight and that stuff, but in terms of getting on the same line with players going forward and attacking, it’s just been very, very difficult.
Q: Compared to the Galaxy and other MLS teams, Chivas USA has a small, but increasingly devoted fan base (the Union Ultras are taking 50 members on a bus to Salt Lake City). Does that reinforce the team’s underdog status and motivate players to prove to fans Chivas USA is worth watching? Any special desire to put one over on Real Salt Lake given that both teams were expansion teams in 2005?
A: We’re happy that we have a fan base that cares enough to travel, and stuff like that, it clearly helps us in the games. They give us a boost while we’re out there trying to win, win for everyone; for the club, for the fans. And no, it’s the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who we play. It’s a playoff game and nothing else matters.
Q: What do you expect from the game?
A: It’s going to be a hard game. I’ve played in a lot of playoff games and a lot of the time it’s not pretty soccer. It’s guys rolling their sleeves up and going to battle, and the team that can pull off a play or two goes through, and I’m sure that’s the way it’ll go.
I’ll be back Saturday with a full preview of the 3 p.m. Chivas USA-RSL playoff opener.