Following a game in which Chivas USA fans hope their team was just rusty following a bye week, the team has another challenge this week, as they head to Sandy, Utah to take on Real Salt Lake Saturday evening (6 pm PT, MLS Live). The Goats are coming off a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, while RSL is coming off a somewhat frustrating 1-1 draw to the Vancouver Whitecaps. In other words, both sides are carrying some motivation, and will be eager to show they are back on track. Given the fact that Chivas have only played one proper away game this season, and the fact that most of RSL's games have come on the road, the home team will probably figure they'll cruise. It's up to Chivas to show them otherwise.
If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions exchange with RSL Soapbox from yesterday. And now, let's preview this match.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 10 points (3-2-1), 2nd place in Western Conference, 5th place overall; Goal Difference: 2 (10/8); Last five matches: L-W-W-D-W
Real Salt Lake: 8 points (2-3-2), 7th place in Western Conference, 13th place overall; Goal Difference: -1 (6/7); Last five matches: D-L-W-L-D
Key Match-up: Chivas' midfield vs. RSL's midfield
Last week, Oswaldo Minda was sidelined with an injury, and Daniel Antunez got the start in defensive mid alongside Edgar Mejia. Antunez hurt his knee pretty badly, though, and is also out. Minda is listed as out again this week on the injury report, and Marvin Iraheta will almost certainly step in to become the destroyer. I think Iraheta has had a rocky start to the season, but he has tamped down his penchant for literally riding players to the ground in recent matches, so if he can find the right mix of skill and physicality, he could really help the club this week. Beyond that, Chivas' more attack-minded midfielders had a tough night last week, and if Eric Avila, Jorge Villafana, possibly Laurent Courtois, or anybody deployed in this match can step up and really create (and hopefully convert) quality chances, that should help take some of the heat off of the holding midfielders and defense.
On the other hand, this looks like a pretty tall task on paper. There's a chance that RSL's holding mid, Kyle Beckerman, may sit out or be hobbled in this match due to a rib injury, but indications appear that he may be ready to go. Javier Morales may be still getting back to full fitness, but he will likely have considerable motivation against the team that basically altered the course of his career. While there has been turnover all over Salt Lake's roster, the midfield is largely intact, and their familiarity could provide problems for Chivas (it certainly has in the past). The team that bosses the midfield could tip the balance in this match ultimately.
Why Chivas will win this match: I think RSL is a team to eye warily, but not completely defer to. Their form has been up and down so far this season, and they show breakdowns and vulnerabilities in nearly every match. Basically, they fall asleep more often than they used to. Add to that the fact that Chivas have stepped up and gotten some good results against RSL in the past, and there's no reason to believe that a win is not possible. What is most important is that Chivas need to get back to playing their game, making sure they press hard on their opponents once more, play a physical (but not reckless) style on defense, and come up with enough chances that they can convert some. If they come out flat once again, consider an RSL rout likely, but if they can get back on track, they can certainly compete with the hosts. Basically, Chivas have to treat this as though they control their own destiny, and if they can, then a win is certainly a solid possibility.
Why RSL will win this match: Juan Agudelo is out. Can other Chivas players step up in his absence? Oswaldo Minda is out again. Significant or not? Real Salt Lake is coming home, and they are probably eager to get a big win to kick off their home stand. Injuries hurt the team early on, but the squad looks like it is getting collectively healthy, and the early inconsistencies could be misleading in relation to the team that comes out in this game. Alvaro Saborio leads the team in scoring with three goals, so there is continuity to past RSL teams, but the other goals scored have come from newcomers or players returning after an absence: Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia, and Robbie Findley. So they are spreading the load around a bit too, and since each of the new scorers plays a substantially different style, they have flexibility in the options they use on the attack. Can Chivas possibly contain all of these offensive threats? It will be hard, and injuries may finally be setting Chivas back far enough to prevent them from playing at full capacity.
Why this game will end in a draw: These teams have a combined three draws so far this season, so while neither side has been draw kings, another gritty affair could lead to a draw. If Chivas muck up the match and can keep pace with RSL on the scoring side, and if Salt Lake can't really get into the rhythm they like, a draw is certainly likely. In fact, I think it is a very likely outcome, so much so that I think that's what will result from the match. While the Goats are getting a taste for wins, I don't think a road point to RSL would be a bad result.
Chivas: Juan Agudelo (hamstring), Daniel Antunez (knee), Miller Bolanos (hamstring), Oswaldo Minda (quad), Walter Vilchez (knee)
RSL: Kyle Beckerman (rib - listed as questionable), Robbie Findley (adductor - listed as questionable), Sebastian Velasquez (hand - listed as questionable), Chris Wingert (knee - listed as questionable)