Last week was so nice, let's try to see if we can do it twice! Chivas USA continue their 2014 league schedule by welcoming the Vancouver Whitecaps for another Sunday afternoon game (4 pm PT, MLS Live/Tickets are available). Both teams are riding high after opening day victories, and will look to start the new season in the best way possible with a winning streak. Which side will emerge? We'll have to watch the game to find out.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 3 points (1-0-0), 2nd in Western Conference, 4th place overall; Goal Difference: 1 (3/2); Last game: W
Vancouver Whitecaps: 3 points (1-0-0), 1st in Western Conference, 2nd place overall; Goal Difference: 3 (4/1); Last game: W
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Vancouver attack
Ok, so last week, the defense withstood the test. With the exception of the five minute period when they lost their focus and let in two goals against Chicago, they had a good game. Of course, it didn't hurt that the league MVP was on the bench the whole game, or that the players who scored were both second half subs. But that's not Chivas' fault -- they can only play the players lining up against them.
It will be important to have another strong defensive performance against an opponent with not only a lot of weapons, but a lot of confidence after opening the season with a 4-1 win over the reigning Supporters' Shield champions. Darren Mattocks is trying to regain his scoring touch, but his play last week was promising, even if his finishing wasn't. And Kenny Miller and Sebastian Fernandez had terrific games last week, with each player scoring a good goal (plus Miller scored a PK too). New DP Pedro Morales came on at the end of the game, and even scored a nice goal himself. Russell Teibert was a bit unfortunate to not get a goal against New York. Sure, it had a feeling that everything went right for Vancouver in that game (with Mattocks' misses the exception), but that's five legitimate scoring threats to be concerned about, and that doesn't even include possible impact subs like Kekuta Manneh or Erik Hurtado.
So it will be up to Chivas to position themselves well and work together as a team to defend against Vancouver's multi-pronged attack. The Whitecaps can torch Chivas with speed and craft, so Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling are going to have to play smart, and Eric Avila and Tony Lochhead will need to take care of the flanks and close down on players who may not go all the way into the box with the ball. And Oswaldo Minda and Agustin Pelletieri will need to do plenty of shielding and try to win the ball in the midfield as much as possible to limit Vancouver's chances in this game.
Why Chivas will win this game: Chivas had a really good game to open the season, and the attitude was great for a group that needed to regain the lead in order to grab three points against the Fire. They're staying at home, so won't need to worry about a change in venue, and will have had a week to prepare and scout the games of Vancouver's new arrivals Fernandez and Morales. I expect them to have a good gameplan, and to be aggressive on the attacking end once more to take the pressure off the defense as much as possible. Though Vancouver's scoreline in the first game was impressive, they tend to open the season well but come back down to earth in subsequent weeks, and it is entirely possible that will happen once again.
Why Vancouver will win this game: As I mentioned, Chicago seemed to hand the Goats some favors last week, and I can't see Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson doing something similar this week. Chivas defense is a major weakness, and if the 'Caps can hold onto the ball and pepper Chivas' goal with shots, the game should be taken care of very easily. That said, it's likely not going to be a rout for a second straight game, and Vancouver will need to see if they can take their high-powered offense on the road. Robinson said this week he's not planning to change the team's playing style away from home. But even with Chivas' deficiencies, will they be as static as the Red Bulls were last week? Probably not. That means the Whitecaps will need to make adjustments, probably in-game, in order to pick up another win.
Why this match will end in a draw: The Goats and Whitecaps have drawn a lot in their series history, so it seems like a solid bet that will happen again, especially with two rookie head coaches and two teams with a fair number of additions. In particular, the holding midfielders will be evenly split in this game, as both sides will likely field two each (Minda and Pelletieri for Chivas, Nigel Reo-Coker and Matias Laba for Vancouver). As a result, the game may get more choppy and not have a regular rhythm for either side to get into, and that may lead to a stalemate.
Chivas: Carlos Alvarez (hamstring), Tim Melia (back), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (adductor - listed as questionable), Thomas McNamara (ankle - listed as questionable)
Whitecaps: Mehdi Ballouchy (knee), Johnny Leveron (concussion), Sebastian Fernandez (foot - considered questionable)