Chivas USA return from a bye week with a league match this evening against the Vancouver Whitecaps at the Home Depot Center (7:30 pm PDT, KDOC/KWHY). Moving into the second half of the season (after this match Chivas will officially meet the midway point), Chivas need to pick up the production if they want to make the playoffs in 2012, and this is their first opportunity to pick up three points. For their part, the Whitecaps are flying high in the Western Conference and will want to take the edge in the season series with the Goats with another win. You may recall that Chivas lost to Vancouver 1-0 at the Home Depot Center on March 17, a tough loss that showed Chivas' early season woes. At any rate, today is a new day, and we'll see if they can get a result against Vancouver this time around.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 19 points (5-7-4), 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -7 (11/18); Last five matches: T-T-L-W-T
Vancouver Whitecaps: 29 points (8-4-5), 3rd place in Western Conference, 6th place overall; Goal Difference: 0 (19/19); Last five matches: W-W-T-L-WKey Match-up: Chivas attack vs. Vancouver defense
Although Vancouver has a potent attack, the boogeyman for Chivas this season has been their sputtering attack, and the previous meeting between these clubs laid those problems bare. Although the 'Caps goalkeepers that night, Joe Cannon and Brad Knighton, had a great night, Chivas did not test them nearly enough and it was extremely disappointing. The good news is that Juan Pablo Angel and Jose Correa should be available, and since they are among the leading scorers for Chivas, they can hopefully put some real chances together and actually score against Vancouver. It wouldn't be a bad idea if a midfielder scored, either, but I'd take any player, even Dan Kennedy, scoring a goal. That said, the Whitecaps' defense is quite stout, between the goalkeepers and the backline. Similar to Chivas, they keep the scorelines close, with only a couple of exceptions, including their recent 3-0 loss to the LA Galaxy. Although the defense is on the old side, their experience between Jay DeMerit, Martin Bonjour, and Young Pyo-Lee it has transformed the team this year. Coming off a midweek match and having to travel to Carson, there may be tired legs and/or squad rotation in this match for Vancouver. Regardless of who plays for them, Chivas will need to take the initiative and keep possession of the ball, create numerous chances, and finish some of those chances. If they can do that, they have a great shot at a result. If not, it's going to be a long night.
Why Chivas will win this match: They have improved substantially since the last match against Vancouver. Although Chivas had several poor games this season, that was the loss that I felt the most hopeless about. To my happiness, however, they have turned it around, although it hasn't always been pretty. I do think that Chivas should take the defensive performance in that match as a starting point. With several very good attacking players, Chivas shut all of them out, and DeMerit was the scorer last time around. The defense will need to be up to the task again, as Sebastien Le Toux has been playing well, and Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento can pop up with solid goals at any time. Fortunately, dynamic rookie forward Darren Mattocks will be out for this match because of suspension, but there's plenty of firepower besides him. Chivas really ought to turn out a focused two-way match, with strong defensive play and a good attack. If they can play at their best, they can definitely win. But they need to be up for this match in order to get three points.
Why Vancouver will win this match: Besides the obvious fact that these teams are in different positions on the table, there are two factors for Chivas that could work in Vancouver's favor. First, Chivas are coming off a bye week, and the last time they came off rest, they got slammed 3-0 in their first match back. If they show up rusty or out of sync, Vancouver could steamroll them. Second, Chivas have a distraction heading into the match. With their semifinal U.S. Open Cup match looming next week, that has to be the main priority between these two matches. In the long run, I think pretty much everybody would take a win in the Open Cup over Seattle over a win in the league against Vancouver. If that's indeed how it shakes out, then this result won't be so significant if it doesn't go well. That said, Chivas need to get a good performance in tonight's match in order to tune up for the Open Cup match. Still, with those concerns in mind, and with Vancouver's strong form, if Chivas aren't playing at their best, the Whitecaps could roll in this match.
Why this match could end in a draw: Between Vancouver playing a midweek game and Chivas not playing for nearly two weeks, it could be a sloppy game and goals could be hard to come by. Furthermore, both teams have good defenses, that are prone to occasional poor performances. On balance, these teams show up game in and game out with good defense, and that could make for rough sledding for both attacks. In addition, both teams probably wouldn't be overly upset by a draw, considering the time of the season and the context surrounding the match. Chivas are due for a goal explosion, but it's not very likely to come in this match.
Chivas: Oswaldo Minda (suspended), Miller Bolanos (listed as doubtful - hamstring), Juan Agudelo (listed as questionable - knee)
Vancouver: Darren Mattocks (suspended), Atiba Harris (knee), Omar Salgado (foot), John Thorrington (quad), Matt Watson (listed as doubtful - ankle)