Are you ready for the latest Chivas USA bye to be over? The Goats resume play Sunday with the final edition of the 2012 SuperClasico, and Chivas and the LA Galaxy have plenty to play for (8 pm PDT, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes). Both teams are looking to gain ground in the Western Conference playoff hunt. In addition, the teams will battle for the season series title and bragging rights around Los Angeles for this season. Who will prevail? We will find out tonight.
If you missed it, check out my article on Chivas defender Danny Califf, who was kind enough to speak with me this week.
Let's preview this key match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 26 points (7-8-5), 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -7 (14/21); Last five matches: D-D-W-L-W
LA Galaxy: 33 points (10-11-3), 5th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: 0 (39/39); Last five matches: W-D-W-W-LKey Match-up: Good Chivas vs. Bad Chivas
Typically, it is useful to compare the teams and see how they stack up against each other heading into a match. In this situation, both because of the season form for both teams and because of the importance of this game to Chivas, the key match may very well be internal. Chivas can't control whether or not they will see an inspired or insipid Galaxy team, but they can control their own mindset and play. In the first Clasico of the season, Chivas play a more focused brand of soccer than their opponents, and while the game wasn't exactly exciting, Chivas was the better team.
In the second Clasico, however, the teams flipped roles, and Chivas played poorly and worse, looked tentative. If the Galaxy play as well as they did in the second match, Chivas are going to have a tough night, but if they play better, they can hang with the Galaxy and still get a result. And if the Galaxy are still reeling after losing last week 4-0 to the Seattle Sounders, and come out flat, then if Chivas are focused and sharp, they should be able to take advantage fairly easily. But if both teams come out flat, then it will be a wasted opportunity for both sides. While the Galaxy wants to win, Chivas needs to win. As a result, the mindset and quality of play is essential, and Chivas need to be at the their best if they want to get the result.
Why Chivas will win this match: They took care of the hard work back in May when they finally broke their five year winless streak against the Galaxy. They know that the Galaxy is not invincible and they know the importance of this game. Perhaps most crucially, if Chivas pick up three points, they'll cut their deficit for the fifth and final playoff spot to four points with four games in hand on the Galaxy. They'll also take the season series, something they have only accomplished once, in 2007. I think that after the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, this SuperClasico is Chivas' most important game of the season to date. This team seems to have improved gradually over the past year and a half, but they have more to accomplish, and this game will go some way in determining if they have made a really step up through two-thirds of the 2012 season. Oh, and David Beckham is back in England doing more "work" for the Olympics like watching BMX races, so the three DPs will not be able to torch Chivas like they did last time around.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: They also have a win in the season series, and it came more recently and in far more convincing fashion. If Chivas broke their winless streak in May, the Galaxy reestablished their control over the season series in July. To them, if they really want to put last week's loss behind them, then they need to bounce back quickly with a win, or else they may face another extended slump that could push them out of the playoffs once again. Even though Beckham won't be on the field, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane have been playing better lately, and the return of Omar Gonzalez, who was a second half sub in the July match, has provided a boost of sorts to the team. Above all, it seems like the team has shaken off the dreadful form of the early part of the season and have the belief that they are a better team than Chivas. Like Chivas, if their heads are on straight and they are playing as a team, they know they can win.
Why this match will end in a draw: Doesn't it seem appropriate that two inconsistent teams will play to a draw to end the season series on a blah note? I think a draw is quite likely. Chivas know they really need a win, and so they may very likely play a tight game. Incorporating Shalrie Joseph and perhaps also Oswaldo Minda into the lineup may also disrupt the team somewhat. The Galaxy will be missing a key player and may still be questioning if they can really click with so many struggles this season. Thus, a draw is quite possible in this match. Remember, though, that if the game is a draw, the Galaxy will win the season series on goal difference, so if Chivas want to win bragging rights, they need to win this game outright.
Chivas: Ryan Smith (hamstring - listed as doubtful), Peter Vagenas (hamstring - listed as questionable), Oswaldo Minda (shoulder - listed as probable)
Galaxy: David Beckham (Olympics-related blah blah), Edson Buddle (knee), Leonardo (knee)