Once again, it is time for a must-win game for Chivas USA. After a break due to the international period, the Goats have had a chance to rest and recuperate, lick their wounds following back-to-back losses, and come into the end of the season with one goal in their minds: the playoffs. Now, because of those losses to the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake, Chivas' playoff odds tumbled from just over 50 percent to just over 30 percent. Basically, Chivas need to win at least four games and possibly five in their final seven. Needless to say, it will be a tough task, but if the Goats can get a win against fellow playoff hopefuls DC United Saturday (7:30 pm PST, Direct Kick/Matchday Live) their aspirations will be all the more possible this season. Can they get the much-needed three points? We'll have to wait until gametime to find out. In the meantime, let's get you ready for the match.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 31 points (7-10-10); 7th in Western Conference, 12th place overall; Goal difference: 2 (32/30); Last 5 games: W-T-T-L-L
DC United: 31 points (7-7-10); 6th in Eastern Conference, 13th place overall; Goal difference: -1 (34/35); Last 5 games: W-T-W-T-LKey Matchup: Chivas defense vs. DC attack
Coming off consecutive losses in quick succession, Chivas need to regain their focus and make sure they give Dan Kennedy support in the match. Missing Heath Pearce because of a hamstring injury is a huge blow, but now is the time for players who haven't had the chance to shine to step up and make the best of their opportunity. In particular, Andrew Boyens will likely get the nod in this match and will need to prove his worth to Robin Fraser. I think Boyens has played well in his limited time, so I hope he can pick up where he left off earlier in the season. But above all, this backline needs to demonstrate they are playoff-caliber. Sure, the goals have dried up in recent games on the offensive end, but Chivas need to maintain a strong defense if they have any hope of getting into the postseason.
Meanwhile, DC has had an up and down season in attack. Charlie Davies got off to a hot start, but after a couple of late penalty draws that Davies admitted were, ahem, embellished, karma looks to have caught up with him and his form has dropped off. At the same time, Andy Najar has not had the season many expected from the reigning MLS rookie of the year, and it is unclear why he hasn't matched his performances of last year. Meanwhile Chris Pontius has provided a spark for the club this season, and Josh Wolff has chipped in with timely goals. But above all, the arrival of Dwayne De Rosario has revitalized United's attack, and the team went from having no postseason aspirations to decent hopes. If Chivas can keep De Ro in check, like Chicago was able to last month, the Goats have a good shot at getting a win.
Why Chivas will win this match: The Goats know their backs are against the wall, and they need a full six points against DC for the season in order to stay in the playoff hunt. Because of scheduling quirks, these teams are meeting for the first time Saturday. They will play again in DC on September 21, so it will be key to get the upper hand on United in this initial matchup. It is truly put up or shut up time, and if Chivas can't get up for this game, their season will end before the playoffs begin.
Why DC will win this match: They are in a very similar position to Chivas. Both teams finished at or near the very bottom of the league last season, both have made major changes in personnel and coaching staff, and both have improved quite a bit from initial expectations. Perhaps DC is in a better position, however, because they have three games in hand on Chivas. United has actually played the fewest games in the league to this point, so any victories they pick up in hand will be much more significant in this period. As a result, a victory by DC will catapult them into the playoff positions. Perhaps the main hope for Chivas is if they get a victory in this match that DC will wear out in their final nine games and drop points in additional matches. Otherwise, DC has the upper hand at the moment.
Why this game will end in a draw: Realistically, both teams are capable of playing well or of playing poorly. Their talent level across the board is probably pretty equal, although De Rosario is certainly more of a gamebreaker than anyone Chivas has. Also, with the pressure of dwindling playoff hopes, both teams will probably be pretty cautious in this game, so a tight game is likely. As a result, a 0-0 or 1-1 draw is the best bet for this game, as far as I'm concerned.
Chivas: Paulo Nagamura (foot), Heath Pearce (hamstring), Dan Kennedy (groin, listed as probable), Simon Elliott (quad/groin, listed as probable), Laurent Courtois (knee, listed as probable)
DC United: Branko Boskovic (ACL), Dejan Jakovic (hamstring), Steve Cronin (shoulder, listed as doubtful), Josh Wolff (hip, listed as questionable)