Chivas USA reach their penultimate game, possibly ever, this evening, when they take on 2005 expansion brothers Real Salt Lake in Utah (6:30 pm PT, TWC Deportes). Somewhat shockingly, the Goats have already taken the season series against their better-decorated counterpart, but a win in this game would sweep the series, which seems unlikely but again, they've beaten RSL twice already this season. What's in the cards for this game?
If you missed it, I took stock of what historic marks CUSA could be looking to reach or surpass in the final two games.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 30 points (8-18-6), 8th in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -31 (28/59); Last five matches: W-W-L-L-L
Real Salt Lake: 53 points (14-8-11), 4th in Western Conference, 5th place overall; Goal Difference: 13 (52/39); Last five matches: D-W-L-L-W
Can Chivas keep their recent momentum after the bye? One of the truisms for CUSA in recent years is that they play badly after byes. They were off last weekend, and while this break is less than two full weeks, it does seem to be a sticking point for them in truly progressing as a team (although at this point, that's probably a moot point).
Will that be the case against RSL? Keep in mind as well that despite the status of Chivas' "home," they've won their last two games, both of which were at home. The last road game they won, or even picked up a point in, actually, was July 12 in Vancouver. Now, until the recent two-game winning streak, that was the last match they won, period, but it does appear the group found some rhythm at "home" recently. Can they go on the road and keep the momentum going?
Although RSL have booked their ticket to the playoffs already, they still have something to play for in this, their season finale. Currently in fourth place, they will be looking to move up to third so as to avoid the single play-in game that takes place between the fourth and fifth seeds. So while I wouldn't be shocked to see an RSL starter or two sit for this one, don't expect all the reserves for the hosts to possibly pave the way for Chivas.
Why Chivas will win this game: Against all odds, seemingly, they've done it twice already, so they may simply have RSL's number for 2014. The first two games were 1-0 results, and while the first game was controlled by the Goats, the most recent win over the Utahns was either a masterclass in counterattacking soccer, or (more likely) a very fluky result for a team that was for all intents and purposes decisively outplayed. Still, CUSA put the most goals in the back of the net, so the wins were ultimately fair on that count. It seems quite apparent that the secret for success will be to get another clean sheet, and grab a goal on the break. If Chivas can do both of those things, then they'll have the tidy sweep.
Why RSL will win this game: But if RSL grab even one goal, the floodgates could really open, and Chivas could end up seeing one more butt-kicking with their last game of 2014/forever coming up. Again, the first win by Chivas this season was more or less deserved, but was aided by Luke Mulholland's early red card, no doubt. The last game between the teams, just a few weeks ago, was really one of the more shocking results of the season, not only because of the teams' forms, but because of how the game played out, with RSL holding a full three-quarters of possession and peppering Chivas' goal with shots. If RSL can play at their regular level, not even necessarily their best, this will be a routine win to close out their season.
Why this game will end in a draw: It's a midweek game, and both teams will have an eye on games ahead (in RSL's case, the playoffs, and for Chivas, the final regular season game on Sunday). If either team really mixes up their lineups, then there could be a loss of rhythm and that could lead to a choppy game. Plus, Chivas have had RSL's number this year -- maybe they can't grab another win, but a draw on the road to close out the season series between the teams would have to be a pretty good result.
Chivas: Oswaldo Minda (suspended), Carlos Bocanegra (concussion), Marky Delgado (knee), Martin Rivero (knee), Thomas McNamara (knee), Felix Borja (quad - listed as questionable), Eriq Zavaleta (hamstring - listed as questionable)
RSL: Chris Schuler (face - listed as probable)