It may feel like deja vu, but Chivas USA face a must-win game when they take on the Chicago Fire Saturday at Toyota Park (1 pm PST, Telefutura). This has been a bad stretch for the Goats, so to get a win on the road against Chicago would bolster attitudes surrounding the team following a brutal 3-0 loss at home to DC United last weekend. As I have written about this week, Chivas still have a shot of making the playoffs, but they need to win nearly all of the rest of their games in order to qualify, so a victory against the Fire is vital. Meanwhile, Chicago's hopes for the postseason have evaporated, but they could play the spoiler and are looking to end the season on a high note themselves following their 2-0 loss last weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes. In the previous game between Chivas and the Fire, a 1-1 draw resulted on July 2 at the Home Depot Center. A point would be better than no points, but a win is really what is needed at this point for the Goats.
In order to get you ready for the match, here's the preview! Enjoy.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 31 points (7-11-10); 7th in Western Conference, 13th place overall; Goal difference: -1 (32/33); Last 5 games: T-T-L-L-LChicago Fire: 27 points (4-8-15); 7th in Eastern Conference, 15th place overall; Goal difference: -5 (30/35); Last 5 games: T-T-W-W-L
Key Matchup: Dominic Oduro vs. Michael Umana and Andrew Boyens
In the previous match between these clubs, Oduro absolutely torched Chivas on his first half goal that put the Fire ahead. The starting center backs that day, Umana and Heath Pearce, simply could not keep up with Oduro's speed and had no answer, so they let him fly by them. Oduro is having a career year, with 9 goals on the season, good for 9th place among the league's top goal scorers. With Pearce out injured for this match, his absence has been keenly felt and the likely center back pairing of Umana and Boyens will have their hands full. Obviously, Chicago has some other offensive weapons as well, with Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa, and even Pavel Pardo providing goals for the Fire, both from the run of play and set pieces. But with Oduro having such a good year and with his success against Chivas earlier this season, it will not be surprising if Frank Klopas goes back to the well with Oduro. If Umana and Boyens can find an impromptu chemistry and keep an eye and good positioning on Oduro, that will go a long way to giving Chivas a shot at winning the game.
Why Chivas will win this match: They are simply a better team than their recent form indicates. I know Chivas fans have been down on the team the last few weeks - I have been too. Although Chivas seems to have overachieved for the season, they have maintained better form than the last three games would indicate. If there is any time for them to right the ship, it must be in this game, since they have a quick rematch with DC United on Wednesday, so they need to gain some confidence before attempting to exorcise the demons of last Saturday. Plus, if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, a win is absolutely necessary. At the same time, Chicago doesn't have anything to play for in the regular season, and their main attention is on the U.S. Open Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders on October 4. Yet again, Chivas need to dig deep, and demonstrate their quality, but they also need to play for pride. They are entirely capable of beating the Fire, and they must Saturday.
Why Chicago will win this match: You can reverse the dynamic: Chicago have nothing to play for in the regular season, except pride, so they don't face the pressure like Chivas. They may not have many victories on the season (only 4) but they are leading the league, with the New York Red Bulls, in draws with 15, an MLS record. This shows that they have played their opponents closely, and obviously if a few draws had instead been victories they would be in much better shape this season. In the previous match with Chivas, Chicago played the Goats closely, and it resulted in one of those draws. Perhaps with home-field advantage, Chicago can turn this even match into a win. Plus, the additions of Grazzini and Pardo seem to have really improved the squad, and may prove tricky for Chivas. As a result, this could be another game where Chivas believe they can get three points, but come away disappointed.
Why this match will end in a draw: I frequently predict a draw to be the most likely outcome, but a draw would be like a loss for Chivas. Still, I think there's a reasonably good chance that this match will end in a draw. Chivas have been playing very poorly as of late, and missing Pearce has been significant. Meanwhile, on the other end, they haven't scored a goal in 274 minutes, which will obviously be a problem if Chivas want to win. The goal drought has to end soon, and while he's played well lately, Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is apt to make mistakes. Still, Chivas need to actually create chances, something that has been problematic lately. If neither team is able to take control of the game and make multiple good goalscoring chances they will likely reach a stalemate and a draw will result. For everyone's sake, let's hope both teams go for broke.
Chivas: David Junior Lopes (suspended, red card), Paulo Nagamura (foot), Heath Pearce (hamstring)
Chicago: Dan Gargan (suspended, yellow card accumulation), Corben Bone (knee, listed as doubtful), Sebastian Grazzini (hamstring, listed as questionable), Dominic Oduro (ankle, listed as questionable)