The first SuperClasico of the season is almost upon us! On Sunday, Chivas USA "travel" to the HDC to face the LA Galaxy (2 p.m. PT, UniMas). Both teams are coming off wins in the league, and in different respects, wins in the last week, so confidence will be riding high on both sides. Still, the Galaxy have history on their side, as well as a 100 percent record in all competitions so far this season, so Chivas remain the underdogs once more.
Chivas, of course, got their first win in far too long last Sunday by beating FC Dallas 3-1. The Galaxy won their first league game of the season, a 4-0 drubbing over the Chicago Fire at home, but they had last week off in MLS and played a home-and-away series in the CONCACAF Champions League, where they ultimately beat Costa Rican side Herediano to advance to the CCL semifinals. And lest you think they will be coming off especially short rest, the Galaxy played Herediano this week at home on Wednesday, so that should give them sufficient time to rest up for the game against the Goats.
If you missed it, take a look at the Three Questions exchange from Friday with LAG Confidential.
With that, let's preview the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 3 points (1-1-0), 3rd place in Western Conference, 8th place overall; Goal Difference: -1 (3/4); Last two matches: W-L
LA Galaxy: 3 points (1-0-0), 2nd place in Western Conference, 4th place overall; Goal Difference: 4 (4/0); Last match: W
Key Matchup: Chivas defense vs. Galaxy attack
Ok, so last week Chivas finally got going on the attacking end in the final 30 minutes of the match. At this point, we're going to flip-flop between the defense and attack before both start to build some kind of stability. Although the defense did what they needed to last week to get the job done, they are going to be under fire to a far greater extent against the Galaxy than they have at any time this season. Compounding factors is that Walter Vilchez suffered a knee and ankle injury and will be out at least a month. One could argue that it is so early in the season that the team has not solidified and another defender could easily come in and establish himself in Vilchez's stead, and that is what Chivas fans must pray will happen. Still, losing him will likely be a blow of some sort, it's just a matter of seeing how well the rest of the team can regroup in his absence.
I wouldn't be surprised if Chivas coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola opts for a similar defensive formation to the one used last week. That would consist of three defenders along the backline once more, but a fourth defender sitting right in front of the defense alongside Oswaldo Minda (I can't see Minda sitting after last week's performance). Edgar Mejia would sit a level in front of them and get involved in both sides of the ball when necessary, and the entire team would need to press throughout the match to win the ball back.
Alternately, Chelís could give a player the task of marking a key player, like he did with Laurent Courtois on Dominic Oduro in the first match. The obvious candidate for this treatment would be Robbie Keane, but the problem with that strategy is that the Galaxy have plenty of other options, even with Landon Donovan not playing right now. Mike Magee had a hat trick against Chicago, Omar Gonzalez has already scored this year, as have youngsters Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean. And don't forget Juninho torching Chivas over and over again in the past. Unlike the Galaxy side of two years ago, that scored once and sat on that lead (including twice against Chivas) this Galaxy team can score in buckets. Chivas will have to defend intelligently and avoid lapses if they hope to get a result.
Why Chivas will win this match: I think Chelís has been really smart in his comments this week to downplay the history of the rivalry. He knows that having one win since 2007 is a poor record, but why dwell on that? Possibly helping factors is that only a third of the roster has played for Chivas against the Galaxy in the past. Of course, it might hurt in matters like team chemistry and understanding how MLS works, but conversely it could help Chivas get a clean slate psychologically, and that could really mean a great deal. Also, most of the nine players on the roster who have played for Chivas against the Galaxy in the past were part of the team that won 1-0 last May, helping Chivas snap their winless streak in the rivalry, so they know it can be done. Certainly, confidence is high, and by no means do I think the team is taking matters lightly. It is just a matter of playing smart and playing their best in a big match.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: They look really good, to be honest. If Chivas have some confidence, the Galaxy have all of the confidence right about now, and despite losing once to Chivas last year, probably don't even remember it. As I mentioned, they have cruised in both the league and CCL so far this month, although to be fair, one could make an argument about the quality of their opponents in both competitions. Chicago has looked dreadful so far this season (and Chivas play the Fire next!), while Herediano, not a bad team per se, was the easiest opponent among those the MLS teams faced in the CCL quarterfinals. Could some of their confidence be inflated as a result? Possibly, though I don't want to see Chivas get crushed and find them move two steps back. Frankly, if the Galaxy play well, they look like they can cruise.
Why this match will end in a draw: I'd take a draw, especially this early in the season and against this opponent. It is possible Bruce Arena could either rotate his squad to keep his players fresh, or rotate the squad because he devalues Chivas as an opponent. The Bruce could be upset that Chelís is stealing his thunder on the quote side, and want to disrespect him and his team as a result. Conversely, Chivas could play well, and the Galaxy could play poorly, and the equilibrium could lead to a draw. I'm not saying Chivas can't win this game...they certainly can. But on paper, a draw looks like a more likely positive result for the Goats.
Chivas: Walter Vilchez (knee), Daniel Antunez (groin - listed as questionable)
Galaxy: Landon Donovan (leave of absence), Gyasi Zardes (foot), Brian Gaul (ankle - listed as questionable)