Chivas USA host the Colorado Rapids in their home finale of the 2012 season Saturday (7:30 pm PDT, Fox Sports West/KWHY). Some articles have dubbed the match "irrelevant" and while that is true concerning the MLS Cup playoff picture, fans of the Goats who have stuck with the club all season are eager to see their team end the season at home on a high note. The paradox is that Colorado is not much better than Chivas record-wise, but their form in the first two matches of the season indicates a difference in class. It will be up to Chivas to even the score in the season series, and to demonstrate that there is hope heading into 2013.
If you missed it, take a look at my article from earlier this week giving you facts and figures for Chivas to keep playing for this season, as well as my article on Chivas' defensive vulnerabilities this season against the Rapids.
Let's get the preview on:
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 29 points (7-17-8), 9th place in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -32 (22/54); Last five matches: L-L-L-L-D
Colorado Rapids: 31 points (9-19-4), 7th place in Western Conference, 15th place overall; Goal Difference: -10 (40/50); Last five matches: W-L-D-D-L
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Rapids attack
Ok, I'm going back to the well with this one and selecting the defense as the key. The Goats have been blown out 4-0 and drawn 1-1 this season with the Rapids, and the way they ended the second match was promising. But Chivas haven't had a clean sheet since July 29, which is also the last time they won. Yes, we have literally gone months since Chivas won, and five of the seven times they have won this season in league play have been with clean sheet performances from the defense. Yes, the attack is a mess and has proven to be just as culpable for the terrible end to the season, but the defense really failed when it simply could not. Oh yeah, and the Rapids have had Chivas' number this season.
On the bright side for Shalrie Joseph, Brian Mullan will not be able to terrorize him this time around, as he's out with an injury. Omar Cummings, Tony Cascio, and Conor Casey are also on the injury report, but their status is probable and so they may or may not feature in the game. Here's the deal, though: I think other players could step up and kill Chivas. I'm sure Rapids fans find this ridiculous, and there's been a lot of talk this week that Colorado may play youngsters in this match, but it is up to Chivas to show that they can get their act together. This is important on both sides of the ball, but I think the priority has to be on defense. It will be interesting to see who Robin Fraser starts on the backline in this match. That doesn't excuse anybody, but I wonder who will get the nod.
Why Chivas will win this match: Well, they have to win again sometime, right? They played FC Dallas very well in their last match, and Colorado is considered a worse team. But will they get a win? That isn't as clear. One positive factor is that the Rapids are nearly as demoralized as Chivas. Also, Colorado's starting goalkeeper, Matt Pickens, is out. Of course, he was the one who set up Juan Pablo Angel's goal in the last game. One negative factor is that Chivas have scored nine home goals in 16 matches to this point this season. Also, they haven't won since July. The evidence is mixed, but if I was using an educated magic eight ball to ask if Chivas would get a win in this one, it would probably say no, sadly.
Why Colorado will win this match: They've beaten Chivas once this season, and they are literally playing for their jobs next season, as the assumption is that Rapids coach Oscar Pareja will be returning next season. And since the reserve and young players will be largely featuring, their motivation will be that much stronger. You could also argue that a reserve-heavy lineup should get beaten by a (presumably) first team Chivas lineup. Frankly, the winning chances of both sides don't look that great. But I'm sure both teams are really excited to see a win, and even if the quality of play isn't stellar, I think they will both be pushing for one. Oh, and if Dan Kennedy (who is on the injury report, but with a "probable" listing) isn't playing, this should help Colorado tremendously. I expect to see him play, but there is a chance he might not be able to go.
Why this match will end in a draw: Two battered teams finishing the season with nothing significant to play for? Smells like a draw to me!
Chivas: Miller Bolaños (suspended - yellow cards), Dan Kennedy (knee - listed as probable)
Colorado: Anthony Wallace (achilles), Pablo Mastroeni (post-concussion symptoms), Matt Pickens (adductor), Brian Mullan (knee), Omar Cummings (ankle - listed as probable), Tony Cascio (ankle - listed as probable), Jeff Larentowicz (groin - listed as probable), Conor Casey (knee - listed as probable)