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Preview: Chivas USA at FC Dallas, July 31, 2011

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Chivas USA  travel to Texas to take on FC Dallas Sunday (4 pm PST, Galavision).  Chivas are coming off of their dominant 3-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo last week, and are hoping that will provide some momentum for the  five game road stretch. They lost the last meeting between the clubs 2-1 on June 18 at the Home Depot Center and are looking to even the score with Dallas. Of course, that will not be easy as Dallas is having a fantastic season, sitting in second place in the Western Conference and the league overall. Despite losing league MVP David Ferreira early on in the season to a broken ankle, the form of Brek Shea has lifted the team to heights that few expected. They are coming off a 2-2 draw last weekend against the New York Red Bulls, a result that was a bit unfortunate for them considering the Red Bulls were bailed out by a late Thierry Henry goal to even the score. Additionally, Dallas got their CONCACAF Champions League campaign started on Thursday, where they beat Alianza FC 1-0 in El Salvador. The bad news for Dallas was that they were stuck in El Salvador following the match and reportedly only got a flight back to the U.S. today. I would expect the game tomorrow will take place as scheduled, but there is at least a small chance it could be postponed.

Let's take a look at some of the key points to preview coming into the match

Tale of the Tape:

Chivas USA: 26 points (6-7-8); 6th in Western Conference, 9th place overall; Goal difference: 4 (27/23); Last 5 games: T-W-T-T-W

FC Dallas: 39 points (11-5-6); 2nd in Western Conference, 2nd place overall; Goal difference: 8 (29/21); Last 5 games: W-L-T-W-T

Key matchup: Chivas defense vs. Dallas attack

Dallas has a balanced team with a stout defense and the one man wrecking crew that is Brek Shea, and Chivas failed in their last match to fully contain Dallas offensively. Brek Shea looked dangerous all game, but especially in the first half, and he opened the scoring in that game. Chivas battled back, Michael Lahoud scoring on a deflected long distance shot to level the score with about 20 minutes to go, only for Lahoud to fail to take care of a back pass in Chivas' box and Jackson to pounce on the mistake to put Dallas ahead. Chivas could take several points from the match: playing a talented team and holding their own, coming from behind to tie the game, but also giving the game away on a careless mistake. That last match came in the midst of Chivas' worst run of form of the season, and gifting an opponent three points provided a painful lesson.

However, Chivas have been playing very well lately, especially defensively, where they've allowed only two goals in four games. They know Dallas is a tough matchup, as Shea cannot be given space. The attention paid to him helps his teammates, and Marvin Chavez had a good game against New York last week and will be feeling confident coming into the match. That means Chivas need to continue to prioritize their defensive performance if they want to get any points from this game. I think it will be interesting to see which formation Robin Fraser uses for this game. He used a 4-1-4-1 last week to great success against Houston, but with Justin Braun's hat trick and the return of Alejandro Moreno from international duty, he may be tempted to go back to a 4-4-2. I have reservations that Chivas have a forward who can lead the line alone (or at all, really) game in and game out, but I also like the idea of Michael Lahoud playing as a defensive midfielder just above the four-man defense for defensive reasons. Whatever the formation, if Chivas can put in a good game defensively, they have a chance at a draw or victory.

Why Chivas will win this match: They are in a good run of form, fourth best in the league over the last five games, and they have played well on the road all season. I think the biggest factor in their favor is the fact that Dallas will have no time to prepare for the Goats. Even before being stranded in Central America an extra day or two longer than they anticipated, playing a CCL qualifier on the road in a different country was going to take up the bulk of their preparations and energy this week. With the added drawback of getting home later than they planned, they will have no chance to hold a training session with Chivas in mind, and will essentially be winging it. As a result of the quick turnaround, Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman may send out an altered lineup that could benefit Chivas. It may not be fair, but if Chivas can take advantage of the difficulties in Dallas' schedule, they will come out of Texas very happy.

Why Dallas will win this match: Despite the problems Dallas have had in the last few days, this still has easy win written all over it for the hosts. They have won seven games at home this season, and that's more wins than Chivas have altogether. Dallas' defense is one of the best in the league, and despite some difficulties in finding consistent performances on the offensive end from pretty much everyone except Shea, they look like bonafide championship contenders this season. Chivas may be able to hang with Dallas for awhile, but like the last game, if the Goats give Dallas a chance, they will undoubtedly take it.

Why this game will end in a draw: I pick this as the most likely option pretty much every game, but this week I think it makes even more sense than usual. Chivas are hungry and look to have righted the ship, despite having a less talented squad. Dallas are tired and cranky after their Salvadorean adventure, and are trying to catch the Galaxy in the Supporters Shield race, but they probably would be content for a point in this match. Chivas would obviously prefer three points in order to keep putting distance between themselves and the teams fighting for the last couple of playoff spots, but a draw on the road to keep their unbeaten streak alive would be fine, especially against Dallas.

Notable absences:

Chivas USA: Jimmy Conrad (concussion), Ben Zemanski (ankle)

FC Dallas: Edson Edward (knee), David Ferreira (ankle), Maykel Galindo (hamstring), Daniel Hernandez (knee - listed as questionable)