Chivas USA will face the Chicago Fire for the one and only time in 2013 MLS regular season play Sunday (2 p.m. PT, UniMas). The teams' form is considerably different at the moment, with Chivas picking up four points in their last two matches, while the Fire have a point on the season and have not scored yet in league play. These teams met in the preseason and tied 1-1, but this game's going to count. Surely, Chivas will have the confidence, but will their play be able to back it up?
If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions exchange with Hot Time in Old Town from Friday.
Are you ready for the match? Let's do some previewing!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 4 points (1-1-1), 4th place in Western Conference, 8th place overall; Goal Difference: -1 (4/5); Last three matches: D-W-L
Chicago Fire: 1 point (0-2-1), 10th place in Eastern Conference, 19th place overall; Goal Difference: -5 (0/5); Last three matches: D-L-L
Key Matchup: Chivas USA vs. the weather
I'm mixing it up this week, folks! A possibly significant factor was mentioned by Ryan Sealock in the aforementioned Three Questions feature - the high in the area on Sunday is forecast to be around 34 degrees with a chance of snow. Add to that the temperature will decline as the game goes on, and the conditions could be pretty tough for the Goats. Now some players on the team have experience playing in winter conditions - Juan Agudelo grew up in New Jersey, for example, and Carlos Alvarez played his college ball at UConn - and I'm sure some of the other guys have at least some experience in extreme weather and cold conditions. But Chivas didn't have to travel elsewhere for training camp, and they don't train in chilly conditions. Could that give the hosts in this match an advantage and throw the Goats off their game?
Obviously these guys are professionals and should be able to handle some cold and maybe some snow, and it cannot be forgotten that they need to stick to basics on both ends and continue to work hard as a complete team. Still, this is their first true road game of the season, and weather will likely provide some adversity for the team. As long as Chelís and the players are prepared, and as long they are able to stick with the task at hand, they can certainly make the weather a non-factor.
Why Chivas will win this match: A month ago, Fire fans would have licked their chops over this particular match, assuming their team would be playoff-caliber once more, and that Chivas would be pathetic. At the moment, the roles are totally reversed. Chivas are building their momentum game by game, and are starting to gain some respect. They won't get a result in every match from here on out, but if they continue to plug away game by game, they can continue their solid run, and they certainly have to like their chances against the Fire. Chicago hasn't scored a goal this season, and many fans and some writers figure the goals will come eventually - why not this game? That may be the case, but Chivas has battled back in each of their games this season, twice successfully. Even if Chicago scores in this game, Chivas can still play their game and get three big points on the road. They've lifted their play each game so far this season, so if they can lift it once more against a struggling Fire side, they can get the win.
Why the Fire will win this match: As much as Chivas' fans may not like it, their renaissance is new, and the road (and potential weather conditions) provides a brand new test for this team. Chicago does seem to be playing below their level so far this season, and while they will be missing some key players (Sean Johnson, Arne Friedrich, Joel Lindpere) for various reasons, they will find a breakthrough sooner or later. It is possible that Chivas' game plan can be neutralized, and maybe this week it will be. Remember, last season Austin Berry got his first professional start against Chivas, and he scored a goal in that game and ended up being the MLS Rookie of the Year. Even if some of the big names won't feature in this match, there could always be a new Berry who will step up and take advantage of the opportunity, and it could be in this game. Plus, the Fire played Sporting Kansas City to a draw last week, and after getting their first point of the year they may be building some momentum of their own.
Why this match will end in a draw: Much like last week, the teams could play to the other's level and there could be a deadlock. Chivas won't have to do without Joaquin Velazquez, since his red card was rescinded this week, but the very physical style Chivas have played so far means they will be at risk for further, more warranted red cards, and that will obviously change the complexion of the game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting an ejection for the second week in a row, but it is certainly a clear possibility. The new environment for Chivas plus Chicago's anxiety to score and get results means a draw could be the outcome of the match.
Chivas: Walter Vilchez (knee/ankle)
Chicago: Sean Johnson (international duty), Joel Lindpere (international duty), Arne Friedrich (hamstring), Michael Videira (concussion)