Let's face it, it has been a tough month for Chivas USA, but they get one more whack at the points piñata in April when they host the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live, tickets obviously available). The Goats are coming off a second tough 1-0 loss featuring a penalty kick miss, while the Quakes are coming off a last-gasp 1-1 draw at home against the Portland Timbers. Chivas sit one point ahead of San Jose with one less game played, so if one of these teams gets a victory, it will make a pretty big swing in the conference standings.
Can Chivas get off the slide in this match? We'll find out Saturday night, but in the meantime, let's preview the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 10 points (3-3-1), 4th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: 1 (10/9); Last five matches: L-L-W-W-D
San Jose Earthquakes: 9 points (2-3-3), 6th place in Western Conference, 12th place overall; Goal Difference: -3 (6/9); Last five matches: D-L-D-L-W
Key Match-up: Chivas' defense vs. San Jose's attack
I think there are concerns heading into the match all over the field for Chivas, but the most pressing concern in my mind is Chivas' defense. While former Goat and Chivakiller Alan Gordon won't be available in this match and won't be able to score on one of his former teams, Steven Lenhart is getting back to full fitness, and Chris Wondolowski is ever-present in the lineup. Additionally, rookie Adam Jahn has already shown a knack for scoring timely goals, and if Marvin Chavez can get some minutes for the second straight match, his speed will stretch the field and will likely give Chivas headaches. As ever, it may not be pretty, but San Jose is capable of being very effective in their attack, and that has to be concerning for Chivas.
On the other side, Chivas have a real dilemma with Walter Vilchez still recovering from his knee injury and Bobby Burling out due to a yellow card suspension. If I were to guess, I'd figure Carlos Borja will slot in for Burling, although Steve Purdy could also get the call and make his season debut. Add to that Mario de Luna's tantrum when taken off early last week, and Chelís is going to have to hope that whoever plays on the backline, their heads are going to have to be in the game from whistle to whistle, and they'll need the physical skills to match up as well. In addition, the non-defenders on the field are also going to have to put in work to support the defense, and it will take a full team effort in order to prevent San Jose from running riot on Chivas' goal.
Why Chivas will win this match: They've had some gutsy performances this season, probably led by the draw against the LA Galaxy. If they really want a win, they are going to need to combine that determination and skill to overcome their opponents. Both sides have been racked by injuries, but San Jose seems to be emerging from their injury crisis while Chivas' seems to be growing each week. That said, perhaps one of the advantages of having this group on the roster is that most players seem to be able to slot in for each other without much dip in quality. Of course, missing some key players will probably hurt, but this is a great opportunity for some guys who may not get many minutes to try and make a case for more time, something that Chelís has been receptive to so far this season. If the Goats can take care of business on the defensive end, and finally get that goal they've been waiting a month for, then that may give them the lift they need, and the Quakes can be there for the taking. I don't think San Jose has shown the same consistency they had in 2012, and if they come out flat, that could give Chivas the opening they've been waiting for.
Why San Jose will win this match: On paper, this looks fairly lopsided in the Earthquakes' favor. If both teams were full strength, well, San Jose would still have an edge, but it would be closer. With Juan Agudelo unlikely to play as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury, Burling and Edgar Mejia suspended, and the status of Oswaldo Minda unclear, four players who have been key when they've played will most likely be out. Although I think Chivas need to worry about their defense first and foremost, the middle of their midfield is a huge concern, with Marvin Iraheta the only player who can be written in straightaway. And up top, Tristan Bowen and Jose Correa, the prohibitive starters with Julio Morales training with the Mexico U-20s, will need to show that they can finally figure out how to score, as their lack of production becomes a growing concern for the team. Just those factors alone make it seem pretty likely that San Jose can get yet another road win over Chivas.
Why this match will end in a draw: Again, based on the struggles of both teams this season, a draw wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. For Chivas, just moving past their losing streak would be good progress, especially given the lineup concerns, and for San Jose, getting a point on the road while still incorporating the injured players who are coming back wouldn't be an awful result, either. And given the likelihood that this could be a chippy, very physical affair, yellow and red cards could certainly be in play on both sides, and this could turn out to be an uneven match. If that is the case, then scrapping and clawing to a point could be a solid result for each team.
Chivas: Edgar Mejia (suspended), Bobby Burling (suspended), Juan Agudelo (hamstring), Miller Bolanos (hamstring), Daniel Antunez (knee), Walter Vilchez (knee), Jose Correa (groin - listed as questionable), Oswaldo Minda (quad - listed as questionable)
San Jose: Alan Gordon (suspended), Mehdi Ballouchy (ACL), Jason Hernandez (calf), Shea Salinas (knee - listed as questionable)