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Preview: Chivas USA Vs. Sporting Kansas City, April 1, 2012

Dan Kennedy: Hope you are up for it again this week! Photo Credit: Denzel Eslinger (RSL Soapbox)
Dan Kennedy: Hope you are up for it again this week! Photo Credit: Denzel Eslinger (RSL Soapbox)

So Chivas USA got their first win of the season in their third match last week, and now it's time to ask if they can get their first winning streak going this season. As with the task at hand last week, the opponent surely won't make it easy for the Goats, as they host Sporting Kansas City (6 pm PDT, KDOC/Direct Kick/MLS Live). The match will wrap up the MLS slate of games for the week, and hopefully Chivas can get a result for a second straight week.

Make sure to take a look at the Three Questions Exchange from Friday with Alex Englen of The Daily Wiz. Thanks again to Alex for filling us in on SKC!

And now onto the preview:

Tale of the Tape:

Chivas USA: 3 points (1-2-0); 9th place in Western Conference (14th overall); Goal Difference: -1 (1/2); Last three matches: W-L-L

Sporting Kansas City: 9 points (3-0-0); 1st place in Eastern Conference (1st overall); Goal Difference: 5 (6/1); Last three matches: W-W-W

Key Matchup: Chivas defense vs. SKC attack

Yep, the question heading into a Chivas game yet again is whether the defense can hold back a potent attack. While there are a number of talented attacking teams in the league, Kansas City quite possibly may have the most dynamic attack of the bunch. As I noted in my article about tactics for this game earlier in the week, Sporting attack from all different positions on the field, from throw-ins by defender Matt Besler to free kicks and service from the midfield from Graham Zusi, to Bobby Convey reinvigorated on the wing after leaving San Jose, to the deepest forward corps in the league. Teal Bunbury is a talented youngster and U.S. international, and he has been out of form lately. CJ Sapong and Kei Kamara have been clicking so far this season, and young pros Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer are eager to break into the first team.

So that leaves two main tasks for Chivas, neither of which will be easy. First, they have to maintain concentration and good team defending from whistle to whistle. SKC coach Peter Vermes will quite likely bring on at least one striker off the bench, and perhaps two. Chivas will need to maintain concentration and some reserve fuel to withstand the fresh legs late in the game. Second, the Goats will need to defend set pieces well. Between free kicks and corners and Besler's long throw-ins, SKC will probably get many opportunities in dead ball situations in the game. I wouldn't doubt Chivas will foul strategically at times to slow down SKC's attack from time to time, but they need to be smart about where and when (and how) they foul. And they will need to mark well to stop the set piece threat.

Why Chivas will win this match: They took out a team of equivalent talent last week, so there is belief that they can beat any team in the league at this point. I don't think anybody is writing in Chivas for the playoffs at this point, but they showed they can follow a good gameplan, weather a sustained attack, and get a few bounces in their favor. If Chivas can play at the same level against Kansas City, there's no reason why they can't get a victory. And with confidence riding high and the team starting to gel, why couldn't they make it two in a row?

Why Kansas City will win this match: Sure, Chivas played well last week. But can they do it consistently, or was last week's win a fortunate confluence of events? SKC will still like their chances especially considering they are the top team in the league at this point, and Robin Fraser and staff won't have the intimate knowledge of SKC that they had of Real Salt Lake. And if SKC are serious about winning the Supporters Shield this season, they need to pick up points in games like this. Even when they miss penalties, like Kei Kamara did last week, they still manage to get late winners (which Kamara scored last week). If Chivas have confidence, SKC have it in spades. They know they are favored, but they have shown they can handle the pressure.

Why this game will end in a draw: Make no mistake - Chivas went for a draw last week. They scored on a half-chance, and made a good result a great one. This week, I expect Fraser will use the same formation and tactics he used last week, and so the attack will continue to be on the back burner in favor of playing good defense. As a result, Chivas will try to keep it scoreless, and if they get a chance on the break, great. They will be playing for a 0-0 scoreline, and as drab as it sounds, it would still be a good result for the Goats. Meanwhile, SKC will be playing for a win, but if they draw, it won't really be a big deal. I imagine Peter Vermes will huff and puff over it, but they are firmly in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, and a road draw won't be a bad result for them either.

Notable absences:

Chivas: Juan Pablo Angel (concussion), Michael Lahoud (hamstring - listed as doubtful)

Kansas City: Eric Kronberg (back)