Three more games this season. Can Chivas USA end the season with a winning streak? We'll find out if they can get a streak going Sunday when they host the Philadelphia Union Sunday at the Home Depot Center (5 pm PT, Direct Kick/Matchday Live). Both teams are coming off a victory, so spirits should be high entering this match. Chivas of course soundly defeated Toronto FC 3-0 last Saturday, while the Union beat their rivals DC United 3-2 this past Thursday. It will be interesting to see if Philadelphia can deal with the quick turnaround and cross-country travel between matches.
Chivas will be seeking to even the season series, after falling to Philadelphia in PPL Park 3-2 on June 25. That match was a wild one, with both teams taking turns with the lead before the Union prevailed. Can Chivas split the series? We'll have to wait for the game to find out, but let's get you ready for the match.
Chivas USA: 35 points (8-12-11); 7th in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal difference: 1 (39/38); Last 5 games: L-L-L-T-W
Philadelphia Union: 43 points (10-7-13); 2nd in Eastern Conference, 6th place overall; Goal difference: 7 (40/33); Last 5 games: T-T-W-T-W
Key Matchup: Sebastien Le Toux vs. Chivas' defense
Le Toux was the breakout star for the Union's inaugural season in MLS last year, but he has not been the goalscorer he was then for much of this season. But with longstanding offensive woes stemming in part from the sale of Carlos Ruiz to Veracruz midseason, Le Toux has recently snapped into form, and the goals have been coming in buckets. In his last eight matches, he's scored nine goals, including two against DC. Prior to this outburst, he had one goal in 22 matches, so it seems like the giant has awakened. Chivas has recently played another star who's been scoring in bunches, Dwayne De Rosario, who scored one and missed a unwarranted penalty against Chivas a little over a week ago. Chivas got a draw in that match, mostly thanks to Dan Kennedy's save of said penalty, but De Rosario's presence was hard to contain for the Chivas defense.
It must be remembered that Philadelphia of course has other offensive options (Danny Mwanga, Freddy Adu, Roger Torres, among others) but the offense is clearly running through Le Toux at the moment. If Chivas can contain Le Toux they will obviously improve their chances of getting a result. I think Le Toux is a smart player who is fantastic at finding the right space on the field and is good on the ball. Speed, however, is not as much of a strong suit for him, which should hopefully bode well for the Goats' backline, that has nobody to match speed except perhaps Michael Lahoud. If Chivas can put a shift together that builds on the defensive performance against Toronto last week, they may be able to shut down an attack that has had sustained dry stretches throughout the season.
Why Chivas will win this match: Perhaps Chivas have some confidence back, and they feel they can truly hang with the Union. I think Philadelphia is an inconsistent team, so you are never quite sure which version will turn up. Plus, it looks like Chivas have reignited their attack recently, with goals scored by Juan Pablo Angel, Justin Braun, and Nick LaBrocca in the last few matches. If Chivas can score on a stout if fatigued Philadelphia defense, they will be in the game. Unless Chivas allowed three or four goals already.
Seriously, though, I think the pressure is falling away for Chivas, since their playoff hopes are nearly extinguished, and I think most players will be motivated to impress Robin Fraser and staff in order to solidify a spot on the team next season. All things considered, I think Chivas have had a surprisingly decent, if ultimately disappointing, season, and many players currently on the squad have something to offer the club moving forward. Hopefully some of these guys will raise their game and beat the Union in the process.
Why Philadelphia will win this match: Before the weekend's matches, Philadelphia were sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, only one point behind Sporting Kansas City. In a conference where the contenders keep playing hot potato with first place, the Union have a lot of motivation in this match to try and take the upper hand. In addition, they will not want to end the season on a slide, because it could mean they would fall out of the playoffs altogether. That may sound crazy, but even in the last three to four games of the season, the East is completely wide open. Although they have been inconsistent this season, they have been playing well overall lately, and have to feel confident coming into the match. They will want to solidify their playoff credentials, and will be taking this match very seriously.
Why this game will end in a draw: Chivas are overall a less-talented team than the Union, but these teams played a pretty close game that nearly ended in a draw earlier this season. I think the Goats are feeling good, especially offensively, but the Union attack will most likely be much more potent than Toronto's. I think a shutout for either side is unlikely, and goals may be traded back and forth. The Union is coming off a game on Thursday, and with the travel to Southern California, it may even the matchup for these teams. A draw for Chivas would be better than a loss, but it would kill their faint playoff hopes. Still, a draw is certainly a possibility for these teams.
Philadelphia: Faryd Mondragon (finger), Thorne Holder (concussion), Sheanon Williams (intercostal strain, listed as questionable), Stefani Miglioranzi (knee, listed as questionable), Veljko Paunovic (calf, listed as probable), Danny Mwanga (hip, listed as probable).