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Chivas USA have been struggling for weeks, although it seems longer, and they'll have a chance to turn a new leaf Wednesday against the Columbus Crew (4:30 pm PDT, Prime Ticket). The Goats are in Ohio for their first and only match against the Crew in 2012, and perhaps the new opponent will provide a new opportunity for Chivas to get a win.
Earlier in the season, this game would have looked like a close match-up, but since the August transfer window, the Crew have improved, adding Federico Higuain (brother of Real Madrid's Gonzalo) and Jairo Arrieta. Chivas...traded for Shalrie Joseph, and we know that hasn't been a smooth transition for the veteran. Who will get the result? We'll find out tonight, but first, let's preview the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 28 points (7-13-7), 9th place in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -22 (21-43); Last five matches: L-D-L-L-L
Columbus Crew: 42 points (12-10-6), 6th place in Western Conference, 10th place overall; Goal Difference: -1 (34/35); Last five matches: W-W-W-L-LKey Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Columbus attack
In the past, a Robert Warzycha team has been one that prioritizes defense and tries to take advantage of a few chances a game. In other words, his style is similar to Chivas' style this season. But considering the continual defensive woes of the Goats, the onus is on the defense to get its act together and keep the opponent from scoring. The last two games, the spigot has been slowed, as they have allowed two goals in each match, but they still have zero points to show for that effort.
In this match, Chivas will have a similar task to the one they faced last weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes. Although the Crew does not have as potent a forward line as the Quakes, they have a variety of weapons to contribute to the scoring, from veteran Eddie Gaven, who leads the team in scoring with seven goals, to Milovan Mirosevic, the Chilean who has had some ups and downs this season, to Arrieta, who has scored five goals in 12 MLS matches. Although Higuain may be an injury risk, as he's battled a foot injury, he already has six assists and three goals in seven games. In other words, if he's in the game, he has to be the primary focus of Columbus' attack. The good news for Chivas is that Columbus has lost their last two games, and only scored once in those games. If Chivas really focus, they can stop the Crew on the attack.
Why Chivas will win this match: Their bad luck has to end eventually, right? Ok, maybe it has been bad form more than bad luck, but Chivas need to show the recent slide has been more of an aberration than the definition of the season. Remember, between May and July, Chivas were actually quite good, winning games and competing in two competitions. Since the beginning of August, they've been horrible, but there's no time like the present to switch the mojo. There will be two main changes in this match: Joseph and coach Robin Fraser will both be suspended, both because of their complaints of the (legitimate) penalty call against John Valencia in the last match. Of course, Fraser will still be able to pick the lineup and give Assistant Coach Greg Vanney the basic instructions to carry out during the game. But it will be very interesting to see how Chivas play without Joseph in the lineup. His arrival coincided with Chivas' winless streak, and he's struggled, with the exception of the New England Revolution draw. If Chivas play great without him, then...I guess his place in the lineup will have to be examined.
Why Columbus will win this match: Chivas tried to make the playoffs this season, while Columbus is straddling the line of the playoff positions, sitting just outside the pack at the moment. They have won five more games than Chivas, they will be at home, they've incorporated new players instantly - the evidence, as usual, seems to be stacked against the Goats. One question that may emerge for the Crew is who will be starting the match in the back. Andy Gruenebaum, who has taken over for William Hesmer this season and has had a breakout season akin to Dan Kennedy in 2011, has been battling an injury of late. That would leave Matt Lampson, the third string goalkeeper with only three appearances this season, as the man between the sticks. Still, Gruenebaum is listed as probable, so I would expect him to start in this match. If he's playing and in form, it will be a tough test for Chivas' attack.
Why this match will end in a draw: For starters, it is a midweek game, and draws tend to occur more often in the middle of the week. Both teams will want three points, as the Crew will want to get back in the playoff spots, while Chivas will want to stop the bleeding. But if the teams are flagging, and a draw is available, they will probably want to take the point. A win would be so much better, but a draw is a fair possibility, and would represent an improvement for Chivas.
Columbus: Tommy Heinemann (knee), Will Hesmer (hip), Carlos Mendes (hamstring), Andy Gruenebaum (back - listed as probable)