Good news! If you were wondering when the MLS schedule would be available, the league has surprised many of us and released it about a month before it did last year. Just a short time ago, the full fixtures were revealed, and Chivas USA now knows their path to the MLS Cup playoffs in 2012.
Before we get going with the schedule itself, remember that the league has changed the schedule format for 2012. Instead of the balanced schedule that saw each club play home and away once each to every other club, the coming season's schedule is unbalanced, with teams playing conference opponents three times a season, and playing teams from the other conference just once. Take a look at my article from November if you're interested in learning more.
March 11: Houston Dynamo at Chivas USA (4 pm, Galavision)
March 17: Vancouver Whitecaps at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
March 24: Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake (6 pm)
April 1: Sporting Kansas City at Chivas USA (6 pm)
April 7: Chivas USA at Portland Timbers (7:30 pm)
April 14: Chivas USA at Toronto FC (1:30 pm)
April 21: Philadelphia Union at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
April 28: Chivas USA at Colorado Rapids (6 pm)
May 4: Chicago Fire at Chivas USA (8 pm, ESPN Deportes)
May 13: Chivas USA at San Jose Earthquakes (4 pm, Galavision)
May 19: LA Galaxy at Chivas USA (7:30 pm, ESPN2)
May 23: Chivas USA at New York Red Bulls (4 pm, Galavision)
May 26: Seattle Sounders at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
June 16: Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
June 20: Montreal Impact at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
June 23: Chivas USA at FC Dallas (6 pm, Galavision)
July 7: Vancouver Whitecaps at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
July 18: Portland Timbers at Chivas USA (1 pm)
July 21: Chivas USA at Los Angeles Galaxy (7 pm, Galavision)
July 28: Chivas USA at Portland Timbers (8 pm)
August 12: Los Angeles Galaxy at Chivas USA (8 pm, ESPN2)
August 18: Chivas USA at Colorado Rapids (6 pm)
August 25: Seattle Sounders at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
August 29: Chivas USA at New England Revolution (5 pm)
September 2: Chivas USA at San Jose Earthquakes (6 pm, NBC Sports)
September 8: Chivas USA at Seattle Sounders (Time TBD)
September 15: San Jose Earthquakes at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
September 19: Chivas USA at Columbus Crew (4:30 pm)
September 23: Chivas USA at D.C. United (4 pm, Galavision)
September 29: Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
October 3: Chivas USA at Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm)
October 7: FC Dallas at Chivas USA (4 pm, Galavision)
October 20: Colorado Rapids at Chivas USA (7:30 pm)
October 28: Chivas USA at FC Dallas (4 pm, Galavision)
So a few initial thoughts. First, the Goats are going to be on national television a fair amount. They will have 12 matches total, with most of those on Galavision (8). They will also be on ESPN Deportes once, on the new NBC Sports network once, and on ESPN2 twice. While MLS fans will need to venture to a Spanish-language channel to see Chivas most of the time, at least the excuse that they are never on television won't fly as much, and hopefully the team, you know, plays well so that they change some perceptions.
The Western teams that Chivas host twice at home in 2012 are: Vancouver, Seattle, RSL, and the Galaxy. Chivas are on the road twice to: Portland, Colorado, San Jose, and Dallas. For Eastern opponents, Chivas will host Houston, SKC, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Montreal, while they will go to Toronto, NYRB, New England, Columbus and D.C.
As I noted originally when the schedule format was released, the unbalanced schedule may cut down on travel time but it may make it tougher for Chivas to make the playoffs. Of course, it is very difficult to handicap teams with more than two months before the season actually starts, and one cannot predict what luck and unlucky breaks each team will face, but Chivas will definitely have tough roads to climb against the likes of Seattle, RSL, and probably also the Galaxy, who may be going through major changes but will still probably be quite good. FC Dallas seemed pretty shaky near the end of the season, but if Brek Shea remains on the team and David Ferreira returns, they will likely be among the elite. The Colorado Rapids seem like they are on the decline, but the coaching changes could help arrest a potential slide. That leaves San Jose and Portland, who will likely be battling to make a leap over their 2011 form alongside Chivas. Portland has been relatively quiet so far in the personnel front this offseason, while San Jose has been making significant changes. Chivas, however, have been arguably the most active club so far this offseason. We'll have to see if yet another house clearing will make a difference.
Finally, you'll note that there are some ebbs and flows in the schedule. I assume Chivas are playing only three games in June at least in part because there may be FIFA international dates the rest of the month. But there are some months in which the schedule seems condensed. In May, the team plays five matches, but they play the Galaxy May 19 and then travel to New Jersey to play the Red Bulls May 23, which will be a tough turnaround, no doubt. But then they travel back home and host Seattle May 26. They also play Montreal June 20 and then go to Dallas June 23. Additionally, they play Portland July 18 and then the Galaxy July 21, but at least both of those will be at the Home Depot Center. So hopefully Robin Fraser and the front office is thinking seriously about squad depth, because they will likely need it for these short weeks, especially if they want to break their duck against the Galaxy.
What do you think about the schedule? Leave a comment below!