Another Sunday, another match for Chivas USA. This week, the Goats are up in the region called "Cascadia," taking on the Portland Timbers (2 pm PT, Univision Deportes/MLS Live - and MLS Live is free this weekend, so you can watch this one legitimately for free). Chivas had Portland's number in 2012, but I'm not sure it will be such easy sledding this time around, even if it is Chivas' only trip to Portland this season. Still, it would be excellent to see Chivas get a much-needed victory, and on the road to boot. Only time will tell if they can pull it off.
If you missed it, take a look at the Three Questions exchange with Stumptown Footy from Friday.
Otherwise, let's preview the game!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-4-2), 7th place in Western Conference, 13th place overall; Goal Difference: -3 (12/15); Last five matches: L-D-L-L-W
Portland Timbers: 15 points (3-1-6), 3rd place in Western Conference, 7th place overall; Goal Difference: 3 (15/12); Last five matches: D-D-W-D-W
Key Match-up: Chelís vs. Caleb Porter
I was tempted to say "Chivas' players vs. Portland's players" but that is admittedly vague. Chivas has struggled the last four games, and it is unclear if the cause is the spate of injuries and suspensions as much as a general talent deficit or an inability to really match up with the opponents. With the exception of Juan Agudelo, who will never be returning, most of Chivas' injured players are getting back to health, although suspensions will still loom large here, with Carlos Alvarez and especially Dan Kennedy out for the match. And with Portland on a roll and Chivas not, the Timbers are heavily favored in this game. Can Chivas get back to their form in March and shock some folks?
Because of this, I think the key may be the coaching battle. Portland had a midweek game, Chivas didn't. The Timbers have had some rough injuries among their center backs, and Chivas have dealt with injuries week after week. Both managers have some lineup decisions to make for this game, whether that means possible rotations for the Timbers or new options for Chivas. On top of that, both coaches are new to MLS, but have made waves with their coaching styles so far. Porter likes his team to dominate the game, while Chelís is comfortable letting opponents dictate the tempo and reacting to it. On paper, it makes Porter seem like he'll skate by easily, especially since Sporting Kansas City did the same thing last week and torched Chivas. But if Chivas can really close down the Timbers, as they have in their best performances, and actually get their attack going, while also defending well, they, and Chelís can get the upper hand on the opponent this time around.
Why Chivas will win this match: Last time Chivas lost a game badly, they rebounded the next week and won. If there's a trait that has served the team well this season, it has been their resilience, and I haven't seen the sense of doom hanging over the team this season. If they can come back and play at their best, they can definitely give the Timbers a game. Even if Portland has been one of the hottest teams in the league, any team can win in this league, and Chivas have shown they can hang with anybody when they are clicking. Plus, if they can finally get anything going on the attack, they certainly have the ability to beat Portland's defense, which has been forced to use both reserve center backs with their original starters suffering long-term injuries. Will it be a cakewalk? Absolutely not, especially with their best player unable to play. But they have shown this is certainly possible.
Why Portland will win this match: They are playing at home, they have gone eight games without losing, and they have generally improved week upon week. They are confident, and they know Chivas have struggled of late. Yes, their defense has suffered some tough breaks with injuries, but reserve defenders Futty Danso and Andrew Jean-Baptiste have been seeing consistent action lately, and Chivas have only scored two goals in the last four matches. The Timbers probably won't need to worry about defending as much as in other games, while they will probably have the green light to attack as often as possible. Both Will Johnson and Ryan Johnson have been scoring pretty regularly, and Darlington Nagbe has looked more and more dangerous this season. The Timbers look like they have a talent advantage, on paper anyway, and they just need to keep doing what they've been doing to get the win.
Why this match will end in a draw: In a combined 19 games, these teams have amassed eight draws, six of them by Portland. I could see this one being a stalemate, in part because of the Timbers coming off short rest, and Chivas trying to get back on track. And while a win would be great for the Goats, a road draw wouldn't be a bad result, especially following the loss last week and the suspension of DK this week. If Patrick McLain can do enough, and if his teammates can accomplish enough on both ends of the field to support him, then a draw would be a decent result indeed.
Chivas: Dan Kennedy (suspended), Carlos Alvarez (suspended), Daniel Antunez (knee), NOTE: Chivas USA released no injury report this week, so other injuries are essentially a mystery.