What a coincidence...Chivas USA are playing on Cinco de Mayo! Wow, life is crazy sometimes, huh? Anyway, the Goats are in middle America for their one and only meeting this season against Sporting Kansas City Sunday (2 pm PT, UniMas). Last year, Sporting came to the HDC and came away with a 1-0 win, back when Chivas had a good defense but no attack to speak of. This year, Chivas' defense is decent enough, though not statistically impressive, while their attack is considerably better. For Kansas City, they are doing pretty well in the standings, but they haven't been quite as dominant this year as some folks expected. For example, last week they lost 3-2 to an admittedly improved Portland Timbers side, but it was at home. Chivas are coming off a gutsy 2-2 draw to the San Jose Earthquakes - can they lay more hurt on SKC?
We'll find out Sunday, but first, let's preview the match. Of course, if you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions exchange with The Daily Wiz from Friday.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-3-2), 4th in Western Conference, 9th place overall; Goal Difference: 1 (12/11); Last five matches: D-L-L-W-W
Sporting Kansas City: 14 points (4-3-2), 4th in Eastern Conference, 7th place overall; Goal Difference: 2 (10/8); Last five matches: L-L-W-W-W
Key match-up: Chivas defense vs. SKC attack
Last week, the makeshift defense, with an additional defender playing as cover at defensive midfield, looked rickety but did just enough to secure a point. This week, two key players, defender Bobby Burling and holding mid Edgar Mejia, are back from suspension and should help solidify the defense. Still, Sporting Kansas City will arguably be the toughest test for the defense since Chivas played the LA Galaxy. Can Chivas keep enough goals out to give their attack a chance? That's the big question.
The biggest weapon on the 2013 SKC team is midfielder Graham Zusi, The biggest star in MLS Fantasy so far this year, he has two goals and three assists, meaning he's had a hand in half of the team's goals so far this season. Zusi takes all the set pieces, making him the focal point whenever there's a dead ball, and he can set up teammates and score himself during the run of play. Besides him, new forward Claudio Bieler has also gotten off to a good start, and those two are the main producing attackers right now. Even so, there are other players who can step up and start scoring, from forward CJ Sapong to midfielder Benny Feilhaber and even the defenders. Chivas are going to have their hands full, and they'll need to stay focused all game.
Why Chivas will win this match: You know, this game isn't going to be easy. That said, Chivas have shown a mental toughness this season that hasn't been present for years. They don't walk into games feeling like they are going to be really lucky if they get a result, they walk into games feeling like they have a chance. If they go down, they know they just have to play to get back into it. I'm still concerned that Juan Agudelo and Oswaldo Minda won't be on the field. Obviously, if they were on the field, I'd like the Goats' chances much better, but still, getting off the mark last week, scoring a couple of goals and getting a result again should help the team's mindset. If they can stay focused defensively, withstand Sporting's pressure, and get back on the counterattack to score, they can certainly pull off a win. Furthermore, these teams foul more than any others in the league, so a red card (for either side) is certainly a decent possibility. Are Chivas favored? No, but they can certainly find a way to win if they execute their game plan.
Why SKC will win this match: They've lost two straight, so they are obviously keen to get a win, and I'm sure they're looking at Chivas like they're fresh meat. Again, with Agudelo and Minda out, and only forward Teal Bunbury out for KC, the home side will certainly feel like they have the talent edge in this game. They do, and I'm guessing Kansas City coach Peter Vermes wants to get one over on his counterpart, a "Welcome to MLS" kind of game that Chelís hasn't yet experienced. Despite the inconsistent form this season, they are also clearly favored in this match, and if their defense can get back to shut down ways, Chivas' attack will have a very difficult time getting a result. The signs point to a Sporting win, but they have to actually get the result if they want to stop their recent slide.
Why this match will end in a draw: Obviously, wins are best, but a draw wouldn't be the worst result for Chivas. To some extent, the same is true for KC. Again, this game will likely be physical, and assigned referee Baldomero Toledo has awarded a red card about once every three games in MLS. I think both teams will spend time in the midfield mucking it up, and I wouldn't be a surprised if it is a back-and-forth match, similar to Chivas' game against Real Salt Lake a couple weeks back. Although SKC is favored, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this game is closer than most people expect, and a draw could be a decent outcome for both sides.
Chivas: Juan Agudelo (hamstring), Oswaldo Minda (quad), Daniel Antunez (knee), Miller Bolanos (hamstring, listed both as "out" and "questionable," so that's confusing), Jose Correa (quad - listed as questionable), Walter Vilchez (knee - listed as questionable)
Kansas City: Teal Bunbury (knee), Chance Myers (hamstring - listed as questionable)