MLS might be taking a break, but it is now time for the U.S. Open Cup! The third round takes place tonight, and Chivas USA enter the competition by taking on the Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College, 7 pm PDT, no television or official streams but the Black Army will have a stream here). The Fusion upset the L.A. Blues last week in the second round to advance, and have won both of their matches in added extra time (6-2 over the Fullerton Rangers in Round 1, 3-1 over the Blues), so Chivas will need to be wary about ending regular time with a draw.
The Fusion have several players who may be familiar to Chivas fans, including 2012 Supplemental Draft pick Daniel Steres, trialist Kennedy Chongo, former Goat Rodrigo Lopez, and a couple of brothers: Travis Bowen, brother of Tristan, and Tim Pontius, brother of D.C. United's Chris.The Fusion are also playing well to start the PDL season, currently with a 3-1-1 record, and are on a five-game unbeaten streak altogether at the moment. With the momentum and with players looking to rise up the soccer pyramid ranks, they will be motivated, make no mistake.
Why Chivas will win this match: Cinderella stories are always nice, but Chivas need to prove the doubters wrong themselves. The only year they won their first U.S. Open Cup match was in 2010, when they made a run to the semifinal, and from the public comments from Robin Fraser and Jose Domene, Chivas want to make a run this season. There's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't: with a two week break in the MLS calendar, Chivas can play this third round match and if they advance, the fourth round match next week without having to worry about fixture congestion. They have also touted their depth, especially in midfield and the forward positions at this point, and a run in the Open Cup means they will have the chance to use more players and rotate lineups in both the Cup and league. This team is on a good run of form, and if they were to lose to one of the only three amateur lineups left in the competition would be a major disappointment. They have the mix of experience and youth, and they should demonstrate the preseason loss to the Fusion was from a team in a very different stage in its development.
Why the Fusion will win this match: They are hungry, and are definitely in form at the moment. Steres and Chongo might have insight as to Chivas' approach, and that could prove useful in their quest to defeat an MLS club and continue an increasingly improbable run. And while I don't want to overvalue this, the reality is that the lower level clubs in California benefit from the quality of the players in the state, and they could very well overwhelm Chivas and make it a cagey match. If this game goes to added extra time, that's a big mark in the Fusion's favor, as they already have experience at playing in those conditions, and it will show how well they've played against Chivas. If the match ultimately goes to penalties, the Fusion also have to have the edge. While they may not have the statistical advantage in the shootout itself, it will also mean that the Fusion played Chivas to the wall and just need to edge them in PKs to win it. Of course, with the scores the Fusion have put up lately, they may not need to go to extra time at all. Chivas will be a tough test, but again, the Fusion beat them in Chivas' preseason, and that may give them the edge they need to make the upset.
Why this match will end in a draw: Technically speaking, it cannot. A winner will be decided one way or the other tonight, and while it could technically be a draw, one team will advance and one team will be out of the running for the 2012 U.S. Open Cup.
Notable absences for Chivas: Oswaldo Minda (Ecuador national team), Ante Jazic (Canada national team), Nick LaBrocca (hamstring)
What do you think? Leave a comment below!