Sunday is a time for Chivas USA to dig deep. They've won three of four road matches this season, and they will need to bring their full skill and concentration to Buck Shaw Stadium when they face the in-form San Jose Earthquakes (4 pm PDT, Galavision). Both teams are coming off losses, both by 2-1 scorelines after falling courtesy of injury-time goals, but otherwise, their 2012 form has been almost oppositional. But Chivas have played remarkably well against the Quakes in recent years, and could certainly pull off another impressive result to get off their losing streak.
There wasn't a Three Questions feature this week, but Quakes writer Robert Jonas offered a preview on this week's episode of the Talking Goats podcast, so be sure to check it out!
Now, let's get ready for the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 9 points (3-6-0), 8th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -6 (5/11); Last five matches: W-W-L-L-L
San Jose Earthquakes: 22 points (7-2-1), 2nd place in Western Conference, 2nd place overall; Goal Difference: 10 (21/11); Last five matches: T-W-W-W-LKey Matchup: Chivas defense vs. Quakes forwards
As you may have noticed, both teams have allowed the same number of goals this season, 11. The difference is that San Jose have scored more than four times as many goals as Chivas, and so the burden is substantially greater on Chivas' defense. In addition, San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski is on an absolute tear right now, as he leads the league in scoring with 11 goals. To put that in proper perspective, he's averaging more than a goal a game this season, and yes, that's more double than what Chivas have managed to score as a team. Add to that his sidekick Steven Lenhart, who has quickly turned into the most hated player in the league (with only Rafa Marquez as realistic competition for that honor), drawing dubious penalties and scoring four goals of his own this season, all of them in the last three matches.
As a result, Chivas will absolutely have their hands full against Wondo and Lenhart. They get a slight reprieve in that speedy winger Marvin Chavez is out for this match with a hamstring injury, but don't fool yourself - Chivas will need to be in top form, with stout defense for the entire match, help from the midfielders and forwards, and probably some clutch goalkeeping from Dan Kennedy. Oswaldo Minda will be out for this match because of a suspension for yellow card accumulation, which will be a big loss, no doubt. But Chivas need to keep the scoreline as low as possible, and if the defense can keep San Jose to one goal, they will still have a decent shot at getting a result, as long as the attack starts to click. That, of course, is not a guarantee by any means, but defense has to be a priority in the gameplan for the Goats, because I don't think they can compete in a shootout against San Jose.
Why Chivas will win this match: In two of Chivas' three wins this season, few thought they were capable of taking a victory, and yet they did it. San Jose is not an easy opponent, but Chivas have historically played well against them. All-time, Chivas have a 6-3-4 record against the Quakes, and have won more of the games in San Jose than the home team, by a three to two edge. Furthermore, Chivas can take heart from another injury, as new center back Victor Bernardez will be out with a knee sprain. Young defender Ike Opara has been shaky in his appearances this season. I know, I know, Chivas had a favorable matchup against a center back tandem in Chicago last week and that didn't turn out so great. But when they have played their best - I would argue their best spell came in the second half against Portland - they have looked like an excellent team. They have certainly struggled this season, but they have showed they can win in a few ways, as they poached a half-chance and bunkered defensively against Real Salt Lake, battled back from a poor half and a goal down to beat Portland, and played nervy but successful soccer against Toronto. They are being counted out, and perhaps that's the best position for the Goats heading into this match.
Why San Jose will win this match: They are cruising overall this season, and they are 4-1-0 at home. They have the leading scorer in the league paired with a pest who is also in the Top 10 in scoring in the league. They have several solid MLS pros in the midfield who take care of business and play well as a group. They are on form, and seem to have made a significant leap up the league's pecking order this season. To them, this match is another to demonstrate their quality over a struggling team, and they are focused and want to keep riding high in a tough Western Conference. Oh, and they crushed Chivas 5-0 in the preseason. Yeah, preseason isn't the same as the regular season, but that loss left a bad taste in a lot of folks' mouths on Chivas' side - and the Quakes have been regularly crushing other teams during the season. Plus, if they score two goals, they are probably 90 percent certain to beat Chivas considering the Goats' scoring woes. If they score three goals? 99 percent chance of victory.
Why this match will end in a draw: I am not feeling a draw, so I'm sure it's going to happen. I'll say this: a draw would probably be a decent result for both sides. The Quakes would probably drop a spot in the standings, but at this point they have no reason to fear they will drop into the lower reaches of the table. Chivas are on a three-match losing streak, so a draw would be a good result to stop the slide, especially heading into the superclasico next weekend.
Chivas: Oswaldo Minda (suspension - yellow card accumulation), Ben Zemanski (knee - listed as questionable)
San Jose: Victor Bernardez (knee), Marvin Chavez (hamstring), Alan Gordon (hamstring), Shea Salinas (clavicle)