The Jose Luis Real era started on a rocky note earlier this week, but Chivas USA are right back in the mix Sunday, and it's the grudge match to boot. The Goats host the LA Galaxy Sunday night (8 pm PT, UniMas/TWC Sports/I bet you there are plenty of tickets still available). Last time these two teams met, in March, they tied 1-1, in a game where Chivas scored on their only shot of the game, and had a player unjustly sent off. The determination to stick with that game, even when the chips were down, was impressive, and times have really changed since then for Chivas. Can they return to that level of sheer ganas?
If you missed them, we had a couple of features ahead of the match. First, Luis Bueno discussed the highpoint of the rivalry, as well as Chivas USA history overall. And we also had a three questions exchange with LAG Confidential, so be sure to check both out.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-9-2), 9th place in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -15 (14/29); Last five matches: L-L-L-L-L
LA Galaxy: 21 points (6-6-3), 5th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: 4 (22/18); Last five matches: D-L-L-W-L
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Galaxy attack
You could say that Chivas' attack is at a dire point. You could say that they were unlucky to concede two of their three goals against Vancouver, as they came off fortunate bounces. You could say that it is hard to really evaluate Jose Luis Real's coaching at this point, since he's only had one game in charge.
Those are all valid points. But let's get to brass tacks - in order to get points, Chivas need to do massive work on both the defensive and attacking ends. It is arguable which side is more dire, but a team can still pick up a point if they score no goals. We know Chivas won't be scoring four goals in this game, so they need to make sure the back is as secure as possible first, especially against a Galaxy team that desperately wants to find some traction. The talent gap still exists between these teams - in fact, it's gotten bigger, seeing as how Juan Agudelo and Eric Avila have departed. And the Galaxy are going to be pushing to score early and often, meaning the defense will be under pressure all game. No game in MLS is easy, but this is going to be a tough task for the defense, and they'll need to really play at their best to give Chivas a shot at getting points.
Why Chivas will win this match: It's a rivalry match, one that Chivas cares about far more than the Galaxy. Sometimes that leads to unexpected results, and certainly seeing the fight from the Goats in the last SuperClasico was heartening. Perhaps getting a game under their belts with Real could help the team find some traction of their own. And don't discount the struggles of the Galaxy of late. Sure, they are doing far better than Chivas, but their form from match to match shifts dramatically. One game, they win big, the next, they lose. They also had a midweek game, against Portland, which led to a 0-0 draw. Since the Timbers are doing well, the Galaxy may have overtaxed themselves, and may not be mentally prepared for the Chivas game, and that could give the Goats the edge they need.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: They are heavy favorites, let's just start there. Beyond that, the players away on international duty, like Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, are nearly all back with the team and the recent inconsistency could ultimately be irrelevant in this game. There's also the oft-cited fact that the Galaxy have absolutely dominated the series between these teams, and so they aren't carrying any mental baggage about being on the wrong side of the rivalry like Chivas. And finally, with the talent gap, they simply should not have to work as hard as Chivas in getting a result. Frankly, if Chivas don't show up, this one could be really ugly.
Why this game will end in a draw: Draws haven't happened much in the SuperClasico, but there was one last time out, and since derby matches often include red cards, they can really change the tone of games. Last time, Chivas were able to get a measure of justice with the late goal in exchange for playing down a man for most of the game, but a tight game and draw is always a distinct possibility in these games.
Notable absences (Note: This game has not released a full game guide, so the injury report is unclear, as it dates back to Tuesday):
Chivas: Steve Purdy (El Salvador), Julio Morales (Mexico U-20s), Daniel Antunez (knee)
Galaxy: Jose Villarreal (US U-20s)