Somewhat unexpectedly, Chivas USA have a bye this week as their match against the the Seattle Sounders has been moved to the fall to accommodate the Sounders' CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against Santos Laguna. It is safe to say the bye brings some good and bad things to the Goats. Let's go over them:
Good: Chivas USA gets more time to heal injured players
Walter Vilchez might be ready for the April 13 game against the Colorado Rapids (actually, that's best case scenario, but it is still possible) after sitting out the past couple weeks with a knee and ankle injury. Juan Agudelo has a hamstring strain, the severity of which is currently unknown. Jose Correa has a groin strain, and Miller Bolanos, quite possibly the biggest enigma so far this season, is currently being listed with an ankle injury.
Now, the league is no longer mandating teams report injuries weekly, apparently because teams widely ignored this in the past, but the custom in the first month of the season has been to severely underreport injuries prior to games. That the club voluntarily issued an injury report this week is pretty remarkable, really. What this means for people writing about and reading about MLS teams is that there will be constant uncertainty regarding the injury situation, so a player who doesn't play for a period of time (like Bolaños) will be regarded as in the coach's doghouse until any word comes down that he may in fact be injured. In other words, it's a total headache.
Still, regardless of that situation, and regardless of the injuries, disclosed and non-disclosed, the Goats will get time to allow players with injuries to get healthy, hopefully also giving some of them a shot to return to the lineup in a week and a half.
Bad: Chivas are on a roll
Somewhat surprisingly, Chivas USA have improved week after week so far in the season. Of course, that's the hoped-for trajectory for a team that is essentially new to the league and each other, but that they have been able to raise their game every game so far is great. Realistically, however, bye weeks can sometimes kill good momentum. Since teams aren't going through the same routine on their bye weeks, however much they may try to replicate the conditions of a gameweek, that can be just enough to throw off a team's rhythm when they get back into a competitive match. Sure, Chivas have two reserve games this week, and I expect they will play mostly starters on Friday in order to keep them in the routine, but that's not the same thing as an MLS regular season match.
Good: They can work on building a rhythm and game plan in training
Once again, Chivas have mostly hit the ground running, and that's great to see, but they can still improve. I have written about concerns on the defensive end, and that is certainly something to work on, but also just linking up with teammates all over the field, building attacks, and dealing with set pieces on both ends of the field can be covered during this stretch. Injuries notwithstanding, the team clearly looks to be fit, and shouldn't need to work on that component, but they can do the tweaking to improve and also to possibly build new wrinkles in their plan ahead of the next stretch of games.
Bad: This is an excellent time to play the Sounders
Seattle currently sits in last place in the conference, on just one point. They lost their CCL game 1-0 at home last night. Confidence is plummeting and they have only managed to score two goals in four league games so far this season. I probably don't need to remind you about Seattle putting up six goals on the Goats last season at the HDC, and taking three points late up in Seattle in another match last year. The Sounders have never been invincible, but they are a tough team, and this would be a perfect time to meet them.
It is possible they could struggle all season, and Chivas could excel all season, but at the very least, it seems pretty likely that the Sounders will pick it up at some point before October. We'll have to get to that point to find out, but this would have been an ideal time to play another team (the LA Galaxy being the other so far this year) that has traditionally dominated over Chivas.
Bad: Ideally, getting a bye would be better a little later on in the season
As the season wears on, bye weeks can become more of a tool to teams, but having one so early in the year isn't necessarily ideal. The Goats don't get another break in their schedule until early June, when they will have a scheduled bye coinciding with the international window, and will go a full 18 days between MLS matches. However, there is a chance they could have a game on or around June 12, if they win their third round (debut) match in the U.S. Open Cup, since the fourth round matches are tentatively scheduled for June 12. Still, even if that happens (and I hope it does) they will still have over a week off before the possible USOC game to rest. Between now and then, they will definitely play nine games (eight MLS matches and the third round USOC game) before they get another break. That is certainly not excessive, but only going five games before a bye probably isn't preferred to waiting a little longer.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!