An important three points is at stake as Chivas USA looks to pull our their first sweep over a Western Conference side while the Portland Timbers look to prevent falling into a five-game losing streak when Chivas heads north (8 p.m. KWHY). Portland has been outscored 14-3 in their last four matches including the Goat's 1-0 win ten days ago.
Chivas can expect to find a dangerous Portland side that's been backed into a corner. Already bolstered playing in front of the fervent home atmosphere's in the league, the Timbers have been have been challenged by GM and interim Head Coach Gavin Wilkenson who has accused players (though no one specifically) of "quitting" in their last match against FC Dallas.
Following last weeks 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy last week, Chivas trails the Galaxy by ten points for the fifth and final playoff spot. Portland is hanging on by their finger nails all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff contention.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 23 points (6-8-5), 6th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -8 (13/21); Last five matches: W-D-D-W-L
Portland Timbers: 19 points (5-11-4), 9th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: -16 (19/35); Last five matches: W-L-L-L-L
Chivas wings vs. Portland fullbacks. It's no secret that Chivas has been struggling to stick the ball in the back of the net. Chivas has the fewest goals in MLS and has only twice scored twice in a match, one of which came against Portland in Jeld Wen Field. Ryan Smith, the man who quite honestly is responsible for all three goals will be out due a hamstring injury. In his place, presumably, will be Miller Bolaños and the returning Juan Agudelo. They will need to use their speed and link up with Jose Correa who has been scoreless in league play since April.
The Portland defense will welcome the return or defender/midfielder Rodney Wallace. Wallace, now off the injury report, is a big athletic fullback who won't be as easily beaten as Lovell Palmer was in April or Stephen Smith was last week and could really disrupt Chivas attack down the flanks.
Why Chivas will win this match:
Charles Barkley summed up the importance of team chemistry by saying, "Winning is the deodorant that destroys the stink." Conversely, a team suffering through a string of lopsided losses is bound to be a team divided into factions fostering a negative atmosphere. As loyal as the fans are, several have been quite vocal in their protestations against Wilkenson. If the Timbers give up an early lead or don't make good on an opportunity, the Portland faithful may be quick to admonish their side like in Portland's US Open Cup match against Cal FC where fans started a number of derogatory chants such as "Care like we do!" In particular watch who Portland lines up at the outside midfield positions. The Timbers in these positions, Kalif Alhassan in particular, do not track back on defense often marooning their defensive counterparts.
Why Portland will win this match:
The stakes are high and players are eager to rewrite the narrative of what has become a lost season. We've seen the Timbers show intensity before (example: Kris Boyd's goal off Alhassan's assist in the forth minute against the Los Angeles Galaxy last week) but never more than the opening five to ten minutes of a game or the second half. However with each Timbers player playing for their spot on the roster if not their career, we should reasonably expect to them to elevate that intensity to a new level.
Why this match will end in a draw:
Gavin Wilkinson's preferred formation seems to be the 4-2-3-1. He was, perhaps, vindicated last week. Against FC Dallas, the Timbers lined up in a 4-4-2 and paid for it by giving up five goals. Oswaldo Minda's continued absence in the Chivas midfield will likely mean more players, perhaps six, staying home on defense. With each team committing six to defense and Jeld Wen Field's pitch dimensions limiting the width of the field, attacks could easily fizzle resulting in limited to no scoring opportunities.
Portland: Defender Eric Brunner, the team's best defender, is still listed on the injury report as out with concussion symptoms but has been spotted working out with the team.
Chivas USA: Besides Ryan Smith, Oswaldo Minda (shoulder) is also out. Juan Agudelo is probable.