Round two of the 2012 SuperClasico is upon us, and this time, Chivas USA is the "road" team at the Home Depot Center Saturday night (7 pm PDT, TeleFutura). We all know Chivas have been a superior road team in 2012, although it's tricky to know if it's playing at the HDC period, or having the home-team tag attached that has been the issue for the Goats, but I suppose we'll find out. Both clubs are coming off midweek matches, as well as back-to-back wins over the Portland Timbers in the last week. Much like the last match between these clubs, there is confidence on both sides, but the circumstances surrounding these teams has differed somewhat since the May 19 game, as both teams have improved their overall form and climbed up the standings.
If you missed it, take a look at the feature from Friday, when I discussed the Top Three Chivas USA players in the rivalry. SB Nation Galaxy blog LAG Confidential did their own Top Three from the other side, so be sure to take a look at that as well.
On with the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 23 points (6-7-5), 6th place in Western Conference, 12th place overall; Goal Difference: -6 (12/18); Last five matches: L-W-T-T-W
LA Galaxy: 27 points (8-10-3), 5th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: 1 (35/34); Last five matches: L-L-W-W-TKey Match-up: Chivas attack vs. Galaxy attack
I highlighted this in the last preview between these clubs as well, but I think it is still key for the match. Last time, the Galaxy attack was completely impotent, and while Chivas didn't have all that many chances, they had more than their opponents and took advantage of one more of those opportunities. What's interesting this time around is that both teams will probably feel confident about their respective strengths. The Galaxy have scored seven goals in their last two matches, and they will feel like they have a good chance of getting revenge on Chivas. Meanwhile, Chivas' strength is definitely their defense, and while they have been stout and find themselves the very best in the league in goals allowed to this point in the season, there is a chance they can have an off game. When they have an off game, it's way off, as they have lost 4-0 to the Colorado Rapids, 3-0 to Real Salt Lake, and 4-1 to the Seattle Sounders in the Open Cup this year. The Galaxy will be counting on Chivas' defense to have an off game, and if they open the doors, they can be opened all the way.
For the Goats, the game plan will be to keep the score to a minimum, play for a clean sheet or at most a single goal conceded, and try to score one more than the Galaxy. You can call it conservative, but that's how they've been playing most effectively this season. Would I like to see this be the game where they get an outburst of goals? Yes, of course I would, and I think they are due for a three or four goal game. And since the Galaxy's defense has been so leaky this season, it is entirely conceivable that Chivas could do it. But based on what we've seen from Chivas' attack this year, there's not much reason to believe that's likely. Still, while both defenses will be tested, it will likely come down to the attacks of both teams to make the difference in this game.
Why Chivas will win this match: They had the Galaxy's number last time around, and they have to have confidence heading into this match. If they win this match, they will come within a point of the Galaxy and more importantly will be within a point of fifth place, which is of course the cutoff for the playoffs this year. As I've been saying for some time, they aren't playing pretty soccer but it's effective, and I don't think any Chivas fans would really be disappointed if the Goats pulled out another 1-0 win. They're on a 318 minute shutout streak in league play, have lost only once in the last nine league games, and seem to have a group that is starting to click. The biggest injury worries coming into the match is the double-whammy of defensive midfielders Oswaldo Minda and Peter Vagenas both out, but fortunately for Chivas Nick LaBrocca and Ben Zemanski have been playing very well in a holding role lately. I hope Jose Correa gets the start, and it would be great to see Juan Pablo Angel get some revenge on the Galaxy with a goal in this match, but if the right players are on the field, Chivas should have the confidence and ability to make it two in a row.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: They essentially mailed in the first half of the season, and while some folks wrote them off for the playoffs this season, they have unsurprisingly jumped into gear in recent weeks. Although they are nowhere approaching their 2011 form, the fact that the designated players are scoring and the defense has improved to some extent, in part from the shock return of Omar Gonzalez from his ACL injury, means that the Galaxy is unlikely to play as abject as the last match between these teams. On top of that, I think there was a sense that the Galaxy could show up in any shape against Chivas and win handily, but the May match probably woke them up. As a result, on top of any regular motivation, the Galaxy will want to re-establish some control over the rivalry and make that loss in May appear to be a fluke. I think the Galaxy will definitely be up for this match, and Chivas will need to play to their strengths and step up themselves in order to prevent the Galaxy from evening up the season series.
Why this match will end in a draw: I don't know you guys, but the intensity of the rivalry did not fully rear its head in the May match. We saw a red card in the last one, and it wouldn't be surprising at all to see one or more in this match. If either team gets a red, they will probably bunker for the remainder of the match. If Chivas get the red, the game could open up, while if the Galaxy go down a man, the game will probably tighten up. Both teams will be desperate to get three points, but they'll also probably be trying to avoid an outright loss. As a result, a draw is a decent possibility. Like Wednesday's match, let's all hope there's at least one goal in this match so as not to lull everybody to sleep, but 0-0 or 1-1 is quite likely.
Chivas: Oswaldo Minda (shoulder), Peter Vagenas (hamstring), Juan Agudelo (listed as doubtful - knee)
Galaxy: Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), Edson Buddle (knee), Leonardo (knee), Todd Dunivant (listed as questionable - calf), Omar Gonzalez (listed as questionable - knee), Mike Magee (listed as questionable - shin)