As a teenage girl once sang, today is Friday and tomorrow is Saturday. Saturday means another game day for Chivas USA! They travel to Ontario (the province, not the town) to take on Toronto FC (1:30 pm PDT, Fox Sports West/KWHY/Direct Kick/MLS Live). This is the second time this season Chivas are coming off a win, and will be looking to get a winning streak going in the early months of the season against TFC. But will the home side shake off the doldrums and raise their form?
We have a Three Questions Exchange from yesterday with Duncan Fletcher of TFC blog Waking the Red, so check it out to get a sense of how Toronto's fans are feeling heading into the match.
On with the preview:
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 6 points (2-3-0), 7th place in Western Conference (10th place overall); Goal Difference: -1 (3/4); Last five matches: L-L-W-L-W
Toronto FC: 0 points (0-4-0), 10th place in Eastern Conference (19th place overall); Goal Difference: -7 (2/9); Last four matches: L-L-L-LKey Matchup: Chivas' attack vs. Toronto's defense
Ok, so Chivas have only scored three goals in five games, but last week's performance gives fans and more importantly, the team, hope that the attack is starting to click. This is an excellent opportunity for the offense to try and get into an even better rhythm with TFC's confidence, especially on the defensive end, at a low point at the moment. Injuries and suspension means they will be playing with a rather-makeshift lineup, and although Chivas are still missing Juan Pablo Angel and Michael Lahoud (neither of whom traveled with the team for the match) they will have to like the opportunity in front of them. By no means do I think the offense will cruise, but they need to take advantage of favorable opportunities, and few are as favorable as this one.
The big question regarding this matchup is whether or not Torsten Frings will be available. He suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener and has been out ever since. The role he's played since coming to TFC midway through last season cannot be overstated. Not only has he been able to play in a variety of defensive roles when needed, including being deployed as a sweeper on a few occasions last year, but his distribution helps get their attack going. There have been conflicting reports on Frings' status heading into this match, and while he might not even be 100 percent if he does play, Chivas will have to like their chances even more if Frings can't give it a go.
Why Chivas will win this match: In relative terms, Chivas are in better form, and in particular, their road form seems to give them an edge in this match. Frankly, it seems like the game couldn't come at a better time for the Goats. With TFC at the bottom of the standings, confidence low, and discord publicly emerging for the team, Chivas have a good shot of dictating play and trying to control the game. The offensive exploits of Ryan Smith, Alejandro Moreno, and Nick LaBrocca from last week are good signs for the team, and Robin Fraser has the option of playing Casey Townsend, Cesar Romero, Miller Bolanos, or newest Goat Paolo Cardozo. Meanwhile, the defense bended a bit but didn't break against Portland, and they are encountering a similar challenge this week in TFC's attack. Forward Danny Koevermans is a big and strong player who has considerable skill and played well after arriving in the middle of the 2011 campaign. He will be the focal point of the attack, and as a result speedy players like Ryan Johnson and Joao Plata could find an opportunity to get into channels and exploit gaps in Chivas' backline. Winger Nick Soolsma has been very good in providing service to the forwards in the CONCACAF Champions League games this year, and is crafty in taking on defenders. And rookie Luis Silva can make a mark on the game if he sees time on the field. Although Chivas are likely a favored side heading into this match, the defense needs to maintain concentration for the entire match in order to contain an attack desperate to find a rhythm.
Why TFC will win this match: Sure, Chivas are probably in an unusual position as the slight favorite, so of course that means TFC will roar back to life, right? Seems about right. Consider this: Toronto no longer has to worry about the CCL, which they were in until last week, so they've had a full week to focus on Chivas. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they have traveled more than any other MLS side (including CCL, which meant trips to Carson and Torreon, Mexico and back) in 2012. As a result, a compelling argument could be made that TFC's form has been altered by these conditions, and with a week's rest and playing at home means they will probably start bouncing back pretty soon. I still don't think they will be at the bottom of the standings come the end of the season, and with so much time before the playoffs they have plenty of time to claw their way back into that race. Their confidence is low, but they may also regard this match as a favorable opportunity, as Chivas' form is improving but is still very much a work in progress. Considering their desperation and coach Aron Winter's vow to make some changes in the lineup, TFC may be able to step up to the pressure and give their home fans some promising signs moving forward in the season. Chivas need to beware of the latent threat of TFC, as it is bound to emerge sooner or later.
Why this match will end in a draw: I think both teams will probably go for the win in this match, and as neither one can consider their defense to be invincible, it should lead to two possibilities: the match will be open and goals will come relatively freely, or the game will be played primarily in the midfield, and most of the action will take place in the middle third of the field. Obviously the first possibility would probably be the more entertaining option, and certainly both sides are capable of playing an entertaining style, but both sides are capable of playing ugly and disjointed soccer as well. If one team plays well and the other poorly, then there will probably be a winner, but if both teams play on the same level, which is a real possibility, the game could very well end in a draw. I don't think this one will end in a tie, so that means it will probably happen.
Notable absences: (to be updated after Friday injury report is released)
Chivas: Juan Pablo Angel (concussion), Michael Lahoud (hamstring), Peter Vagenas (ribs - listed as questionable)