Chivas USA will conclude their season series against FC Dallas on Sunday with an evening game at "home" (7 pm PT, TWC Deportes). The Goats are on a bit of a slide at the moment, having lost their last two games in convincing fashion, while Dallas are on a roll, unbeaten in their last six league games. Can the Goats even up the season series with a win? Will Dallas continue Chivas' pain? We'll find out this evening.
Be sure to check out the Three Questions feature if you haven't yet.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 23 points (6-9-5), 9th in Western Conference, 16th place overall; Goal Difference: -12 (21/33); Last five games: L-L-W-W-W
FC Dallas: 30 points (8-7-6), 4th in Western Conference, 6th place overall; Goal Difference: 3 (34/31); Last five games: D-W-W-D-D
Defense is on the clock again: Remember when Chivas were not only winning last month, they were racking up a shutout streak in the process? Unfortunately, both of the main pieces on the defense responsible for that streak, center backs Bobby Burling and Carlos Bocanegra, are ruled out with injuries. That means Eriq Zavaleta and Andrew Jean-Baptiste are probably going to start again in the middle, probably with Donny Toia and Tony Lochhead as full backs.
The good news is that Zavaleta and Jean-Baptiste have gotten that pesky first start together behind them, and can hopefully now move on to preventing mistakes. But it seems incredibly risky to have those two playing together in the middle (not that the team has much choice), especially against a dynamic attack like Dallas, one that's capable of beating opponents with speed, passing, and guile.
Even though Burling and Bocanegra have no speed to speak of, and are more than capable of putting in stinkers themselves, their experience and game awareness is clearly best on the team at the position. Add to that the rather-favorable partnerships of pairing one veteran with one of the youngsters, and that would appear to be a decent recipe for eventual success, with the older player providing leadership and good positioning, and the younger player having the athleticism to combat attackers properly. Instead, we get two athletic guys with less than 45 career starts at CB between them, with potential but a ton to learn. Maybe they'll spring a surprise and improve with a game under their belts. But on paper, it looks like a bumpy ride, and Chivas fans will probably need to buckle up for this one.
Why Chivas will win this match: Frankly, it's going to take an uncharacteristic offensive explosion, a poor performance from Dallas, and the aforementioned defense getting their act together. I think we've seen games this year in which CUSA are more than capable of winning games like this, and a great deal will depend on both the dynamism of their own attack and the ability to stop FCD's attack. If the Goats win, will it be a surprise? Not exactly, but even though they are at "home" they aren't favored in this one, and that should tell you a great deal about a team that is improving but still has a massive way to go before they truly enter the realm of "competitive."
Why Dallas will win this match: The more success their offense has, the better their defense deals with opponents, and again, on paper, it's shaping up to be a great opportunity to gain three road points for Dallas. Fabian Castillo is back from a long suspension, Andres Escobar has been playing well, Mauro Diaz, who you may recall torched CUSA in the teams' first meeting, is rounding into form again, and Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele have been doing good things as a forward tandem. And even though they are in the playoff places, they're going to want a win here to ensure they remain in playoff position, as the homestretch of the season approaches. Dallas are going to look to score early and often, and if they grab an early goal, it could really be a night of misery for the Goats.
Why this game will end in a draw: They tied in their last meeting, and these teams have tended to draw quite a bit over the years. If Chivas bunker down and defend successfully all night, they may be able to take the game to a scoreless draw. It wouldn't be pretty, and it wouldn't be a much-needed win, but it would be better than a blowout loss, right?
Chivas: Thomas McNamara (knee), Martin Rivero (knee), Bobby Burling (knee), Carlos Bocanegra (concussion), Marvin Chavez (hamstring - listed as questionable), Mauro Rosales (hamstring - listed as questionable)
Dallas: Kellyn Acosta (leg), George John (knee), Hendry Thomas (knee), Chris Seitz (quad)