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Preview: San Jose Earthquakes Vs. Chivas USA, September 2, 2012

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 13:  Sunday night football with the Goats! (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 13: Sunday night football with the Goats! (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Chivas USA have had a crazy week, both on and off the field. But regardless of what's happening off the field at the moment, the Goats have a game coming up tonight against the San Jose Earthquakes (6 pm PDT, NBC Sports Network). It will be Chivas' first game on the NBC Sports Network, which has been doing a fantastic job showing MLS games this season, although top broadcaster Arlo White may not be there as he covered the U.S. Women's National Team game in New York Saturday. No matter, it's about the game, not the broadcasters.

Here's the key question for this match: can Chivas spring an upset on the top team in the league? The Quakes have been the surprise team of the season, and despite dropping a surprising match here and there, have remained on top all season. They are serious contenders for MLS Cup this season, while Chivas look unlikely to make the playoffs for the third year running. But on this night, can the Goats get the win?

Tale of the Tape:

Chivas USA: 28 points (7-10-7), 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -15 (20/35); Last five matches: W-L-D-L-D

San Jose Earthquakes: 50 points (15-6-5), 1st place in Western Conference, 1st place overall; Goal Difference: 19 (52/33); Last five matches: D-D-W-L-W

Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Quakes attack

This is becoming a sadly familiar refrain, isn't it? Chivas have done a good job in the last couple of games in scoring, as some of the youngsters have done a good job stepping up and the team got a big contribution from Shalrie Joseph in the midweek game against the New England Revolution. But the defense has completely fallen apart lately, and it's a shame for a team that had played so well for much of the season in that side of the game. The recent tally is that the team has given up 14 goals in the last four games, and they've earned two points in that span. That's really awful, and the team is limping to the finish. Considering they have 10 more games to go, giving up at least three goals a game 75 percent of the time would be a bad way to finish the season.

Here's the problem: even considering the potent attacks of the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, the Quakes have to be considered the most potent attack in the league. They have scored by far the most goals this season, and they have racked up quite a few blowout wins this season themselves. They even blew out Chivas in the preseason, with a 5-0 scoreline in the preseason tournament in Portland. Yes, Chivas did nearly beat the Quakes in the last match between the clubs, before giving up a late equalizer by none other than Alan Gordon, but San Jose's track record plus Chivas' struggles means the defense needs to get its act together and perform like they once were this season. Otherwise, it will be a long night.

Why Chivas will win this match: Any given [Sunday], people. MLS has a definite pecking order, but one of the nice features of the league is that there is truly a chance that any team can beat any other team from game to game. Yes, Chivas did defend San Jose's vaunted offense well last time out, and were only a few minutes away from not only winning but doing the impossible in keeping a clean sheet against the Quakes. And they've shown this season that they can rise to the challenge and beat teams when it seems they have no shot. If the defense can do even a competent job, and if the offense can continue to gain the momentum they have over the past few games, they can certainly grab a result. And wouldn't it be terrific timing, with an unsettled situation behind the scenes and a team that is struggling on the field to take everyone by surprise? Yeah, it doesn't look likely on paper, but this is what happens sometimes.

Why San Jose will win this match: Well, they are the best team in the league record-wise and all, but here's what I think it comes down to: Alan Gordon. Not only does he have an incredible knack for scoring against his former clubs, like he did last time he came off the bench against Chivas, but he's leading the league in scoring rate and he was recently called up to the U.S. Men's National Team. I know Chris Wondolowski has scored more goals and I know that Steven Lenhart has scored consistently this season as well, but I'm afraid of Alan Gordon when he faces Chivas, because a goal seems automatic. And now he's playing better than ever! So whether he starts or comes off the bench, if Alan Gordon enters the game, it's going to be hard for Chivas to get a result since he's got the voodoo on one of his many former clubs.

Why this match will end in a draw: Nobody expects it or really wants it, so it could happen. They did tie last time around, but a draw would be another bad result for Chivas. Sure, they could make another comeback as they have their last two draws, and it would be a moral victory of sorts, but it wouldn't be the same thing as getting three points. Despite that, the Goats may be lucky to hang on for a draw if they have a chance, and while San Jose will want to pick up maximum points to stay atop the Supporters Shield standings, a draw probably won't kill them too much. As we say, a draw that nobody wants is often the outcome! We'll see if that holds true here.

Notable absences:

Chivas: Peter Vagenas (hamstring), Ryan Smith (hamstring - listed as doubtful), Juan Pablo Angel (achilles - listed as probable)

San Jose: Jason Hernandez (hamstring), Shea Salinas (hamstring)