Perhaps the best news following a tough game last weekend is that there's one right around the corner, and Chivas USA have a great chance to rebound from the loss in their last game by traveling to Colorado and taking on the Colorado Rapids this evening (6 pm PDT, KDOC/KWHY). The Rapids handed Chivas a pretty brutal loss back in April, and so Chivas should have double motivation to get a win in this game. And if you haven't been paying much attention to Colorado's form this season, they had a six-match losing streak earlier this season, and they sit sandwiched between Chivas and Portland in the Western Conference standings, so yeah, the season's been a bit up and down for the Rapids.
Who can get the result in the altitude? We'll find out tonight, but let's preview the match:
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 26 points (7-9-5), 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -11 (14/25); Last five matches: D-W-L-W-L
Colorado Rapids: 25 points (8-15-1), 8th place in Western Conference, 15th place overall; Goal Difference: -4 (31/35); Last five matches: L-L-L-W-LKey Match-up: Chivas' psychological state vs. the world
This may sound like a joke, but it isn't. Chivas have shown a tendency to wilt under the pressure this season. Although it can be reasonably argued that they were outmatched talent-wise and out-classed on the field in most of their blowout losses, the fact is that a team that has any pretensions of using the word "playoff" and season aspirations must be able to stick with the project when the going gets tough. This may or may not be a "must-win" game, but Chivas are going to help themselves significantly if they win and hurt themselves significantly if they lose. And while the team can't control the talent on the pitch, they can control their mindset and if they come out feeling flat or slump over when they give up a goal (never mind trying to score a goal or more of their own) the final 13 matches of the season are going to be very hard.
Chivas have shown they are a team that can click at various points this season. They have improved their talent base over the course of Robin Fraser's tenure in charge. But they need to have the belief as well as the skill to win. Otherwise, the game will be a waste of their potential.
Why Chivas will win this match: The pressure is on this club, and they are reaching a critical state in the season. The Goats have few believers, and those that believed at earlier moments this season are wavering. They have the talent to score goals but haven't managed it. They remain one of the best defensive units in the league, currently tied for third in the league in goals allowed, but they are prone to giving in a bunch of goals when they aren't playing well. They need to take heart in the fact that they are indeed good enough to beat the Rapids and they can improve their playoff hopes substantially with a win. They've been through a knockout tournament this season and performed well enough to get to the semifinals. They should treat this match like it's a knockout match. Oh, and Chivas have a good record on the road this season. They have left the hostile confines of the Home Depot Center this week, and they should take strength in that.
Why Colorado will win this match: Well, they mopped the floor with Chivas last time around. That seems as good of a reason as any. There's also the perpetual advantage of the altitude at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and considering the fact that Chivas gave up three goals in the last 10 minutes the last time they played there, it may have slowed the Goats down. On top of that, Colorado has considerable motivation to get a result in this match too. As you may have noticed in their last five matches stat, they have lost four of their last five matches and morale is low around their team. They have a belief that Colorado coach Oscar Pareja is implementing a new system and that system will take time to perfect. The team is not without talent, but they are trying to shake out who will stick in Pareja's team and who won't. Conor Casey is projected to return for this match, and while he is not the most popular player in the league, he is often quite effective. Martin Rivero is turning into a good pickup this season for the Rapids, but fellow newcomer Jaime Castrillon will be out due to suspension. Still, Colorado may be battered, but they have motivation in this game, and they will be hungry to beat Chivas.
Why this match will end in a draw: Although I would normally say that a draw is better than a loss, and while that is still true, the fact is that both teams could really use a win, and a draw will basically be a loss considering the ground both teams need to make up if they want to move up the standings. Still, two inconsistent teams that can't figure out how to get their act together is a recipe for a draw. If Chivas can keep the Rapids to zero or one goal and can't score themselves, a draw is a high possibility. But these teams need to play for a win.
Chivas: Ryan Smith (hamstring - listed as questionable), Peter Vagenas (hamstring - listed as questionable)
Rapids: Jaime Castrillon (suspended), Anthony Wallace (achilles), Pablo Mastroeni (concussion), Edu (foot - listed as questionable), Kamani Hill (quad - listed as questionable), Conor Casey (hamstring - listed as probable), Tyrone Marshall (calf - listed as probable)