So two games, two losses. Time for Chivas USA to right the ship and get a result Saturday. It certainly won't be easy, however, as they travel to Salt Lake City to take on the high-flying Real Salt Lake (6 pm PST, Prime Ticket). RSL has beaten the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls in successive weeks, and will certainly feel good about their chances this week against the Goats. Chivas will have a tough task, no question about it.
Earlier in the week, I asked for readers to vote on which formation Robin Fraser should use against RSL. At the point I'm writing this, the 4-4-2 approach is narrowly beating 4-3-3, although you can still go vote if you want to weigh in. It looks like the readers want to see a balanced approach instead of the ultra-defensive 4-5-1 approach of the first two games, but I'm not so sure Fraser will deviate in this match.
If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions Exchange with Denzel Eslinger of SB Nation MLS blog RSL Soapbox from Thursday.
Let's start a-previewin'!Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 0 points (0-2-0); 9th place in Western Conference; Goal Difference: -2 (0/2); Last two matches: L-L
Real Salt Lake: 6 points (2-0-0); 1st place in Western Conference; Goal Difference: 4 (5/1); Last two matches: W-W
Key Matchup: Chivas defense vs. RSL offense
At this point, I should rename this section "How much pressure is on Chivas' defense this week?" But the reality is that the defense will largely determine Chivas' fortunes Saturday. RSL have dangerous players in the forward line as well as the midfield, and while forward Alvaro Saborio and midfielder Javier Morales are not expected to play a full 90 minutes, there's more where that came from. Fabian Espindola is a forward who has finally come into his own in MLS, and shows a fiery streak that could prove dangerous for Chivas in more ways than one. Young players Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez are making major impacts so far this season in the midfield, and veterans like Ned Grabavoy and Kyle Beckerman can always nab a goal or two. To say Chivas' defense will be challenged would be an understatement.
On the bright side, Chivas did a very good job shutting down a potent Vancouver Whitecaps attack last week. The combined firepower of Eric Hassli, Sebastien Le Toux, Camilo Sanvezzo, and Davide Chiumiento did nothing of note against Chivas, and the lone goal in that match came courtesy of a defender, Jay DeMerit. Although a lot of bodies have been given defensive objectives in the first couple of weeks and both matches ended in losses, the defense played well in those matches, scorelines notwithstanding. I don't think Chivas have to show up ready to get torched, but the defense (and the midfielders playing defense, too) will have to play a perfect match from whistle to whistle to get a result.
Why Chivas will win this match: Do you remember May 15, 2011? It was the day Chivas beat the New York Red Bulls 3-2. The Red Bulls were flying high up to that point in the season - many believed them to be bonafide MLS Cup candidates. But Chivas' win was the first game that exposed New York's many flaws. Do I think RSL has the gaping holes the Red Bulls had? No. But could Chivas pick some holes in their game? Absolutely. Especially with the inside knowledge of Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney of RSL, from their time as assistants under Jason Kreis, Chivas could surprise the league leaders. And if RSL fails to adequately respect Chivas heading into the match, mental lapses could help Chivas, assuming they are capable of capitalizing.
Why Real Salt Lake will win this match: This is the bettor's favorite, no doubt. If MLS gambling were any kind of industry, I'm guessing the payout on an RSL victory would be very low. They are the best team in the conference at the moment playing the worst team in the conference. This is a team that can win with style, win ugly, just win however they need to. They have confidence, playing the teams that get the lion's share of the hype and big name players in the league and winning handily. They have a deep team that can maintain focus for a whole game. Frankly speaking, a result other than a win for RSL will be a surprise.
Why this game will end in a tie: Call me cautiously optimistic, but I thought Chivas played RSL very well last season, despite losing 1-0 both times. I think if Fraser has more talent on his team this season, as we all hope, Chivas are capable of getting a draw. This team has had their fair share of hard luck over the years, including the first two weeks of this season, and if they play smart, they have every chance of picking up a point. And let's face it, a point would very much feel like a win at this point in the season. Let's see a result, whether it's three points or one.