Another week, and another chance for Chivas USA to get a home result. They host the Philadelphia Union Saturday evening at the Home Depot Center (7:30 pm PDT, Prime Ticket/KWHY/Direct Kick/MLS Live) seeking to continue their winning streak. For their part, Philadelphia has had a rocky start to their season, but they won their last match and will be looking to keep some momentum going themselves. Historically, the Union have played well against Chivas, winning two and drawing the other two, so Chivas may seek to reverse their historical record and get a win against Philadelphia.
If you missed it, be sure to take a look at this week's Three Questions Exchange with Scott Kessler of Brotherly Game. Otherwise, let's preview the match:
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 9 points (3-3-0), 5th place in Western Conference (8th place overall); Goal Difference: 0 (4/4); Last five matches: L-W-L-W-W
Philadelphia Union: 4 points (1-3-1), 9th place in Eastern Conference (18th place overall); Goal Difference: -3 (3/6); Last five matches: L-L-L-T-WKey Matchup: Chivas attack vs. Union defense
No doubt, the Union have several players who can be dangerous on the attack, and could spring up and score goals. Gabriel Gomez hit a penalty chip last weekend to win the game, Danny Mwanga (if he's available) has proven to be dangerous against Chivas in the past, and of course Freddy Adu could give Chivas fans reason to gnash their teeth about Chivas not signing him last season. But the big matchup heading into this game has to be if Chivas can actually start scoring at home this season. Last year, Philly had a terrific defense, but injuries and personnel moves have shifted the defensive stability so far this season. Second year goalkeeper Zac MacMath has struggled a bit after getting the starting spot following the departure of Faryd Mondragon, and frankly he could prove shaky in this match, especially if Chivas are able to put bodies in the box, pepper the goal with shots, and basically try to distract MacMath as much as possible. But MacMath's struggles have been compounded by the makeshift Union backline. Carlos Valdes returns, but he hasn't looked as sharp in the early weeks of the 2012 season. Sheanon Williams is a talented up-and-coming defender, but he had to play center back instead of right back last week, and could be slotted in the middle again. Meanwhile the full back slots have seen several players slot in, and new left back Porfirio Lopez has not impressed many. And Danny Califf's season has fluctuated between injury and publicly questioning why he was benched - not a good sign regarding the team captain.
Needless to say, the Union have talent and are capable of providing a good test for Chivas attack, but this is a golden opportunity for the Goats. Ryan Smith and Miller Bolanos have played well on the wing in successive weeks, which is good because Michael Lahoud is out another week after a setback to his hamstring injury. Casey Townsend and Cesar Romero have shown good moments but probably won't feature ahead of Juan Pablo Angel, who has been cleared and will likely start as long as he's fit. And if Alejandro Moreno and Nick LaBrocca can offer some attacking chops from the midfield like they did in Portland, there should be plenty of options for Chivas. This team should be able to get at least a goal at home this week.
Why Chivas will win this match: They have confidence at the moment, and they know Philadelphia is still reeling after Peter Nowak's puzzling personnel moves over the past year. Meanwhile, it looks like many of Chivas' new players are coming good, as James Riley, Rauwshan McKenzie and Oswaldo Minda have played every match so far this season, and Townsend, Romero, Smith, Bolanos and Peter Vagenas have also seen considerable action. Although this team has quite a bit of room for improvement, it looks like Robin Fraser's blueprint is starting to work. And let's be honest: on paper, Chivas look to be a much better team at the moment. Added to that, Chivas have played the third-toughest schedule in the league, while the Union have played the fourth-easiest to this point. It looks clear that Chivas should be favored in this match. The big wrench in all of this is of course that the game is at home, but they won't lay a goose egg at the Home Depot Center for 17 matches. With the difficult schedule for the Goats over the next month, Chivas know they need to take three points, and continue to prove the haters wrong.
Why Philadelphia will win this match: Chivas look like they are moving out of the woods of abject play, but they haven't shown they are firmly a midtable team. I doubt Chivas are looking past this match, but the Union could spring to life and start clicking in earnest Saturday, and catch Chivas on their heels. Seeing even Chivas' performances in the last two wins, there is plenty of reason for Philly to believe they can challenge the Chivas defense. And while Nowak's personnel moves and lineup decisions seem to do more harm than good, especially this season, there's a reason why he is such a respected and successful coach. The Union may be a crouching tiger, waiting to strike, and then take the league by surprise. It is entirely possible this will be the week they begin to truly round into form.
Why this match will end in a draw: Both teams have players capable of the sublime, but their playing style tends to the ugly and overly physical. Neither team will likely run away with this match, and a good or bad bounce either way could knot the scoreline. Between the teams, they have a single draw this season, and while each club wants full points, a single point is better than none, so if it is tight at the end of the match, it will probably stay tight. 0-0 will be a point, but be a disappointing performance for both teams' attack. 1-1 is more likely and will be tolerated far better by team and fans alike. These teams have played to draws in the past meetings at the HDC, so history is on the side of this result as well.
Notable absences: (official injury report is not yet updated for the week)
Chivas: Michael Lahoud (hamstring), Peter Vagenas (ribs), Ben Zemanski (knee - listed as probable)
Philadelphia: Roger Torres (knee), Danny Califf (hamstring - listed as questionable), Sheanon Williams (lip - listed as probable), Carlos Valdes (calf - listed as probable)