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Preview: Houston Dynamo at Chivas USA, July 23, 2011

HOUSTON - JUNE 11:  Attempting to upend Houston on Saturday (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - JUNE 11: Attempting to upend Houston on Saturday (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Facing similar form in their recent play, Chivas USA host Houston Dynamo on Saturday night (7:30 pm PT, Direct Kick/Matchday Live). Both teams are on 4 game unbeaten streaks, but each has only managed one win in that stretch. They are each battling for a playoff spot, and are in the middle of the mix. In fact, one of these clubs may pip the other to the last spot at the end of the year, considering they have both been hovering around the 10th spot for awhile. Houston won 2-1 in the last meeting between the teams in June, so Chivas will be looking to split the season series.

These teams have a similar profile. Their squads are pretty anonymous around the league, their form is inconsistent, and are capable of surprising opponents from time to time. There is some concern that Houston has not finished their downward slide after winning their last title, and there have been calls recently among Dynamo fans on Twitter that Coach Dominic Kinnear needs to go. I'm not sure there is a consensus on that sentiment, and the team looks to be trying to retool without letting the bottom fall out all the way. Meanwhile, Chivas look to be improving and the team is rebuilding and learning Coach Robin Fraser's system, and the team needs to make a key signing or two in the next month, but their prospects are looking up.

Need to get ready for the game? Let's get started

Tale of the tape:

Chivas USA: 23 points (5-7-8); 7th in Western Conference, 11th place overall; Goal difference: 1 (24/23); Last 5 games: L-T-W-T-T

Houston Dynamo: 24 points (5-6-9); 4th in Eastern Conference, 10th place overall; Goal difference: 1 (24/23); Last 5 games: L-T-T-W-T

Key Matchup: Houston set pieces vs. Chivas defense

In the last meeting between these teams, Brad Davis and the Dynamo torched Chivas for both goals off of set pieces, and threatened several more times. It was the game that set the Goats into a month-long spiral of self-doubt and poor defensive performances, so it will be necessary to demonstrate that they can exorcise those demons from the last match. The backline for Chivas does not have a lot of height, and the combination of Houston's height and Davis' spot kick accuracy will be a big test. In order to combat the set pieces, Chivas will need help from the midfield, and will need to mark players and keep good positioning.

Why Chivas will win this match: Houston bested them in the last match, but there is no reason to think the Goats can't even the score. The teams are nearly equal on points, have the same goals for, against, and difference, and are back-to-back in the overall table. Chivas have really worked to build their defense up in the last month, and look to be playing better again, and will be keen to prevent themselves from making the same mistakes as the game in Houston. Houston will be missing Brian Ching and Colin Clark because of their red cards in the last match, and besides Davis they haven't had any consistent scoring from the rest of the team. For Chivas, it will be interesting to see if Marcos Mondaini is back in the lineup. He hasn't been listed on the injury report even though he was battling a knee knock a few weeks back, and he didn't play against New York. He scored in the last match against the Dynamo, and if he and/or Nick LaBrocca is in form, Chivas may have the spark to top Houston. Houston did have a midweek friendly against Bolton Wanderers, so that might have an impact as far as preparations for this match.

Why Houston will win this match: Those mental scars from the last Houston match really set Chivas back to square one, so they may have a hangover coming into this game. Furthermore, the Goats haven't made the Home Depot Center as much of a sanctuary as one would like, as they have lost more games at home than the road this season. For the Dynamo, they are scratching their way to the playoffs, just like Chivas, and will like their chances in this match, and if Brad Davis is playing well, they will have a good chance for a result. Finally, like Chivas, beyond their top player, Houston's goals have been distributed throughout the squad, and makes it difficult to focus on one or two players to stop. If they can get some goals from unheralded players, don't consider it a surprise.

Why this game will end in a draw: These teams really are mirror images of each other, in a lot of ways. They have each gotten 3 draws, 1 win and 1 loss in the last five games, and are coming off draws last week. Considering Chivas will likely focus on the defensive side of their ball in this game, a low-scoring draw is probably the betting pick (if that was legal, of course).

Notable absences:

Chivas USA: Jimmy Conrad (concussion), Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela national team), Ben Zemanski (ankle, listed as doubtful)

Houston: Brian Ching (suspension - red card), Colin Clark (suspension - red card), Jermaine Taylor (concussion), Calen Carr (concussion)