So you may have heard about some news that was supposed to drop this week, and that didn't happen, and besides that and a trade this week, you may have forgotten that Chivas USA actually has a game to play! The Goats are facing their first repeat opponent of the season in Real Salt Lake on Sunday (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live/tickets unquestionably available), who they lost to 1-0 on the road April 20. That loss came during a rough stretch for Chivas that hasn't yet subsided, as they have only earned one point since that loss. In contrast, RSL has two wins and two losses, so they haven't been flying, but obviously six points is better than one.
Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara is in LA, as he's making an appearance on behalf of Omnilife Sunday. Will he be at the HDC for the match? Possibly, although I bet he probably won't be mingling with the fans for this one.
Let's preview this game!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-5-2), 9th in Western Conference, 16th place overall; Goal Difference: -6 (12/18); Last five matches: L-L-D-L-L
Real Salt Lake: 17 points (5-5-2), 4th in Western Conference, 9th place overall; Goal Difference: 0 (13/13); Last five matches: L-W-W-L-W
Key Match-up: Chivas offense vs. the world
Will the defense have a tough game? Most likely. Does RSL have a more talented and deeper team than Chivas? Certainly looks like it. But I remain convinced that until the Chivas attack can get going with any proficiency, this team has little chance of stopping the winless slide. Oswaldo Minda is currently listed as "questionable" on the injury report, and although he isn't known for his attacking chops, if he can actually get back in the lineup, then he may take pressure off the defense and allow central midfield partner Edgar Mejia to play more of a distributive role. And while Carlos Alvarez will be out once again after getting a regular place in the starting lineup and that could hurt the attack, there should be plenty of reason to see other guys step up.
With the remaining forwards still struggling to score, the key may be for the midfield (and perhaps the defense, if Mejia can be on point in his set piece distribution) to step up. We know that Eric Avila and Jorge Villafana have at times been the best attacking players in certain games, and if they can mix up the crosses and taking on defenders, that could provide a spark. Will new Goat Gabriel Farfan see time? I think it's probably a guarantee, and I think he'll probably play in midfield, especially with Chivas' 3-man defense. Does he really have attacking chops, or is he more of a destroyer? I'd really hope the move has unshackled him to get in on the attack, but we'll have to see. And there's newcomer Martin Ponce, who basically had Chivas' best chance of the game last week in the Portland loss after he came off the bench. Can he really do the different things Chelís was talking about when Chivas introduced him?
That's a lot of questions, and if Chivas go down 3-0 early, the attacking component may be moot. But still, the attack has been in shambles lately, and this team needs to get that going immediately. Let's hope this game begins that turnaround.
Why Chivas will win this match: I'm not going to lie, this latest stretch, plus the trades and uncertainty surrounding the entire club doesn't give me much optimism for this game. That said, I still don't think RSL are as powerful as they have been the last few seasons, and if (a big if) Chivas are able to get their act together, they can take their opponents. And despite the loss to Salt Lake earlier this season, Chivas played quite well through a long stretch of that match, they just couldn't get any good chances. Again, if the defense can remain strong, but more importantly, if the attack can take some of the pressure off the defense and score, then a win is certainly possible. And this is MLS - any team has a chance any given matchday.
Why RSL will win this match: They've been killing Chivas in the HDC the last few years, so I'm sure they're feeling pretty confident. And I'm sure they don't want Chelís to steal the spotlight, and Jason Kreis and company want to continue putting the new guy in MLS in his place. Besides that, even though key forward Alvaro Saborio will be out, their young strikers Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval have played quite well in recent weeks and have to be considered legitimate goal threats. Javier Morales played very well against Chivas last month, and I'm sure he always has extra motivation against Chivas after his career was sidetracked so long following his injury in 2011. They are the favorites, even on the road, and if they can outplay Chivas, they should have no issue getting a win.
Why this match will end in a draw: These teams can battle, and they occasionally play to grinding stalemates. Add in the fact that these teams do seem to rack up red cards on a fairly frequent basis, and if the referee gets card-happy, then we could certainly see some ejections. Besides that, Chivas could dig deep and really put in a (figuratively) fighting performance, especially to refocus the discussion following all the rumors dogging the club. I'm not sure I think a draw is a likely result, so that means call up your (fictional) MLS bookie and put your cash down for that result.
Chivas: Mario de Luna (suspended), Carlos Alvarez (suspended), Daniel Antunez (knee), Tim Melia (back), Tristan Bowen (hamstring - listed as questionable), Jose Correa (quad - listed as questionable), Oswaldo Minda (quad - listed as questionable)
RSL: Kwame Watson-Siriboe (suspended), Alvaro Saborio (quad), Olmes Garcia (adductor - listed as questionable), Robbie Findley (knee - listed as questionable), Nat Borchers (flu - listed as questionable)