Chivas USA will play the third of four games in 11 days tonight as they host the Seattle Sounders (7:30 pm PDT, Fox Sports West/KWHY). Both teams are coming off midweek games, as Chivas of course tied the New York Red Bulls 1-1 Wednesday, while the Sounders lost to the Columbus Crew 2-0. Although they are near the top of the conference standings, the Sounders have only earned one point in their last three matches, and there are concerns about their recent form. They might continue that slide against the Goats, or they could spring to life and become a force to be reckoned with. Regardless, Chivas need to keep their focus for the entire match against Seattle.
If you missed it, take a look at the Three Questions Exchange with Dave Clark from Friday.
On with the preview...Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 14 points (4-6-2), 6th place in Western Conference, 11th place overall; Goal Difference: -5 (8/13); Last five matches: L-L-T-W-T
Seattle Sounders: 23 points (7-3-2), 3rd place in Western Conference, 5th place overall; Goal Difference: 7 (15/8); Last five matches: W-W-L-T-L
Key Matchup: Chivas midfield vs. Sounders midfield
Each side will be missing significant players in the midfield. The Sounders will be missing Osvaldo Alonso, who was suspended two games Friday after a dangerous tackle during the Columbus match. Alonso is the rock of Seattle's lineup, he's a ball winner and he does all the dirty work and acts like a pest so his teammates can be left to do their thing. MLS has a plethora of strong defensive midfielders, but if Alonso is not the best, he's definitely in the conversation of the best in the league. Without him, Chivas will obviously consider their chances improved on the attack.
Not so fast. Chivas are missing two essential midfielders themselves. Oswaldo Minda has gone away on international duty with Ecuador, and Nick LaBrocca suffered a hamstring injury against the Red Bulls. While it could be argued that losing the one of the best players at his position will be a bigger blow, I think losing two key players in the middle of the field is probably more significant, and so Chivas' backups will need to step up. I expect Peter Vagenas to replace Minda as holding midfielder, while Servando Carrasco will likely start in place of Alonso for Seattle. What about LaBrocca's spot? That is less apparent. I think Alejandro Moreno, Blair Gavin, Miller Bolanos or Paolo Cardozo could potentially play in the center of the midfield. Regardless of who plays for Chivas, they are going to be at their best against the Sounders, as players like Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez, Brad Evans and hybrid forward/midfielder Fredy Montero will still try to control the game through the midfield, and they are a formidable group.
Why Chivas will win this match: Chivas are starting to build a little momentum, and the fixture congestion and sputtering form may distract the Sounders enough to get a result. The Sounders are a more talented team than Chivas, collectively, but Chivas have shown well against the cream of the MLS crop, and there's little reason to believe they are incapable of beating the Sounders. In addition to the absence of Alonso, there's concern at goalkeeper, as Michael Gspurning, the regular starter, has been out with an injury for several weeks and is not expected to be ready for this match. Bryan Meredith has come in Gspurning's absence, and while he started well, there are concerns the youngster might need a break, in which case Andrew Weber could come in. With some instability in the position, that might bode well for Chivas, as Meredith could be dealing with confidence issues and Weber has not featured in an MLS match since 2009. If Chivas can get a good number of shots on goal, they might be able to test the Sounders' goalkeeper and find a weakness. With Juan Agudelo out of the U.S. Men's National Team roster, he is available for the match and will likely play against the Sounders.
Why Seattle will win this match: I don't want to sound like I don't believe, but while Chivas have had a good couple of weeks, they still need to build some consistency before we can legitimately call them a good team. The Goats are dealing with some adversity with a couple of key losses, and the entire team needs to play a focused team game in order to best the Sounders. If they don't, Seattle could steamroll Chivas like they did in the 2011 regular season finale. Also, Montero is playing great right now, and since he's started scoring, he's become a complete terror to opponents. He's even incorporated Eddie Johnson (yeah, that Eddie Johnson) into the attack, something few would have predicted when the Sounders obtained Johnson. Plus, they've allowed the fewest goals in the league this season, which doesn't bode particularly well for Chivas, who are tied for second-worst in the league in scoring. Oh, and the Sounders are undefeated on the road this season (which is better than even Chivas' road form). Seattle has had a few slumps since they've entered MLS, but they have also stopped skids before they take a big tumble, and they will certainly be committed to beating Chivas.
Why this match will end in a draw: Chivas are on the uptick, the Sounders are on a downbeat. Their all-time record in MLS play is totally even, with two wins, two losses, and three draws. They are coming off a short week, and may not have the time to devote to regular preparation, and fatigue among players could lead to a less-than-dynamic style of play. Chivas generally play close games, and while a win would be better, a draw would not be a horrible result. For the Sounders, getting through this week of MLS games before the international break when they can regroup might be the primary goal. I'm not feeling a draw, so count on it happening.
Chivas: Nick LaBrocca (hamstring), Oswaldo Minda (Ecuador selection), Ben Zemanski (knee - listed as probable)