After a substantial layoff from MLS league play, Chivas USA are back in the saddle tonight, as they are up in British Columbia taking on the Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm PT, MLS Live). Last time these teams met, March 30, Chivas won 2-1, and that was their last win in league play, meaning they've gone eight games without a win (and just one draw in that span). Vancouver is starting to hit some form, meanwhile, as they've won three of their last five in MLS, including a wild 4-3 win last weekend over the New England Revolution. It should make for an interesting night, hopefully one with something positive for the Goats.
Let's preview the match!
Tale of the tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-8-2), 9th in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -13 (13/26); Last five matches: L-L-L-L-L
Vancouver Whitecaps: 19 points (5-5-4), 7th in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -1 (22/23); Last five matches: W-L-W-D-W
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Vancouver attack
Ok, this time, new coach Jose Luis Real will be leading the team for real. The most tangible difference with the new system being implemented so far is that Chivas will be using a conventional four-man defense. Can it make a difference? It didn't in the last two matches the Goats played, but perhaps having the real coach in charge can inspire the group to play better than they have been.
What's concerning is how well Vancouver's playing. Although they did play at the weekend, they hung four goals on New England, statistically the best defensive team in MLS. Yes, they scored all of those goals after the Revs went down a man, so you can't necessarily blame New England for merely falling apart, but Vancouver knew they could take advantage of their opponents, and they did. Kenny Miller scored a brace in that game, including a spectacular game-winner, and Russell Teibert has been really impressive in his assists the last four games. Camilo has also played well of late, so the combination of a Vancouver offense that is starting to click and a Chivas defense that is trying to figure things out could bode badly for Chivas unless they can really commit to defending. Of course, the Goats are also desperate to get some scoring too, but let's start with the most pressing need first, and then figure out how to go from there.
Why Chivas will win this match: I'm not really feeling a win here, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. With Real finally in place, could it provide a boost to the squad? Potentially. And don't forget, Chivas beat the Whitecaps last time these teams met, so it isn't entirely inconceivable. Plus, even with the 'Caps finding a bit of form, they have been extremely inconsistent this season, blowing hot and cold on a fairly regular basis. If Vancouver comes out tonight thinking they have this game, without really being focused or on form, then there's certainly an opening for Chivas to spring a surprise. I think Chivas will have to show a level they haven't shown since March in order to really get three points, but if this team wants to reverse the slide, they need to start gaining points ASAP.
Why Vancouver will win this match: They are in better form, they aren't coming off a long break like Chivas, so they are in a rhythm, and they are playing at home. The sample size isn't very big, of course, but Chivas have yet to win in Vancouver. Remember the 4-0 dismantling of Chivas last October? That's ok, if you don't want to, I understand. But I imagine that's what Vancouver will be looking to do again, and given how badly the Goats have played the last two and a half months, it certainly seems like a good bet. Even if Vancouver doesn't blow Chivas out, Chivas' scoring woes means even a 1-0 lead will probably be sufficient. The Whitecaps enter this match as heavy favorites, and they will be eager to keep their momentum going.
Why this match will end in a draw: These teams have tied half of their meetings historically, and there's a solid possibility they will play a dull midweek match that will feature little rhythm and a lot of physical play. If that's the case, it could be a stinker, and a draw could result. From Chivas' perspective, one point would be good, since it would end their five-game league losing streak. The Whitecaps would probably be upset with just a point, but it would still help them move up the table and coming in a busy stretch for them, it wouldn't be the worst result over the course of the season. I am not feeling a tie here, but history could prove too compelling for these teams to resist its lure.
Chivas: Daniel Antunez (knee), Edgar Mejia (ankle), Tim Melia (back), Julio Morales (international duty), Dan Kennedy (back - listed as questionable), Josue Soto (knee - listed as questionable), Joaquin Velazquez (adductor - listed as questionable)
Vancouver: Kekuta Manneh (suspended), Jay DeMerit (Achilles), Andy O'Brien (hamstring), Brad Rusin (calf), Omar Salgado (foot), Gershon Koffie (quad - listed as questionable)