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Preview: Chicago Fire at Chivas USA, July 2, 2011

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Chivas USA have lost three games in a row, and a major talking point emerged this week as the team has discussed the need to stop the slide right away. While they do not want to take the Chicago Fire lightly when they host them on Saturday evening (7 pm PT, Galavision) at the Home Depot Center, this match looks like one where the Goats can return to winning ways and try and gain some advantage from actually playing at home. Rather than be afraid of playing at home, they need to embrace the support of their crowd and just win.

Tale of the Tape:

Chivas: 17 points (4-7-5) 8th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal difference -1 (20/21); Last 5 games: T-W-L-L-L

Chicago: 17 points (2-4-11) 8th place in Eastern Conference, 16th place overall; Goal difference -3 (18/21); Last 5 games: T-W-T-T-T

Key Matchup: Chivas defense vs. Chicago attack.

As in many matches, one team's offense/defense is going to overcome the other's offense/defense, but this will be a test of each side's relative weakness. Normally, fans and neutrals want to see goals and more goals, but realistically, Chivas should set their sights low and focus on not letting in goals. Of course, in order to win, Chivas will have to score at least one more goal than Chicago, but they should really dedicate themselves first and foremost to defense on Saturday.  Meanwhile, Chicago will be looking to continue the defensive woes of Chivas and pile in some more goals, just like the Union did last week when they scored a prodigious three on the Goats. Although Marco Pappa scored a great goal outside the box against New York last week, I have confidence Dan Kennedy is more competent than Bouna Coundoul. No Fire player has really lit it up offensively in recent weeks, so they will be hoping Chivas continue to get distracted and let them score.

Why Chivas will win this match: Despite identical records, Chivas is a much better team on its day than Chicago. They have struggled recently, but the last game where Chivas was favored, against Portland, they took care of business and won 1-0. The Fire have dealt with a midseason coaching change and some roster turnover even before the opening of the summer transfer window. Chivas had these problems too, only they took place in the offseason and they are farther along in their rebuilding project than Chicago. Chicago's offense is pretty weak most of the time, and Chivas do have offensive players, like Marcos Mondaini, Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores, and Justin Braun, able to test the backline of the Fire. Young goalkeeper Sean Johnson is prone to odd mistakes and Chivas will try and capitalize on one of his errors. The Goats are going through growing pains, but they have no reason to give up on their ambitions for the season. Chicago is decent, but Chivas can, and should, beat them.

Why Chicago will win this match: They are coming off a 1-1 draw against New York, so they will have confidence coming in. They know how shaky Chivas are right now, and they will probably try to send a pass behind the Chivas high line, as that frequently results in goals for the opposition. Chivas have pressure in that this is essentially a must-win game, but Chicago are not going to feel that pressure at all in the Home Depot Center. Pappa and Dominic Oduro have been playing with a great deal of energy lately, and sooner or later they will start scoring a greater volume of goals. The defense has been pretty good, and Chivas aren't exactly laying 4 or 5 goals on anybody this year.

Why the game will end in a draw: Both of these teams are pretty anonymous and lack any game-breaking players. While Chivas desperately want to get three points, they would settle for a point right now. Every time I predict a scoreless draw for the Goats, the teams end up splitting 5 or 6 goals, so that would be entertaining, but even a 0-0 deadlock will help Chivas get some confidence and allow them to take pride in their defensive record again. Moreover, Chicago is the king of the draw this season in MLS, and are fast approaching a league record (they currently have 11, record was set by FC Dallas last year of 14). They are great at grinding it out, so there is little reason to believe they won't continue their three game streak of ties.

Notable Absences:

Chivas USA: Defender Jimmy Conrad (Concussion); Forward Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela national team); Marcos Mondaini (knee, listed as probable)

Chicago Fire: Midfielder Daniel Paladini (suspension, yellow card accumulation)