I'm now saying this every week, but guess what? There's a game this weekend! Chivas USA will host the Seattle Sounders this evening (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live/tickets unquestionably available), the teams' first meeting this season. Somewhat remarkably, both teams are coming into this match with very low spirits, but for very different reasons. Chivas, of course, have not won a league game in their last seven tries (although they did win midweek, in the U.S. Open Cup), the team got sued this week, and they fired their rather-popular coach. Meanwhile, the Seattle fans are in the dumps because they lost two games, a 4-0 shellacking against the LA Galaxy in league play, and a 1-0 upset to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Open Cup. I don't intend to pour salt on the wound, but being so sad because of a mere two losses? Wouldn't that be a neat feeling, folks?
I digress. Be sure to check out the Three Questions exchange from Friday, and let's preview this game!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 11 points (3-7-2), 9th in Western Conference, 16th place overall; Goal Difference: -11 (13/24); Last five matches: L-L-L-L-D
Seattle Sounders: 15 points (4-4-3), 6th in Western Conference, 13th place overall; Goal Difference: 1 (14/13); Last five matches: L-W-W-W-D
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Sounders attack
Last week, Chivas only lost by two goals and although the scoreline was less embarrassing than the previous three games, the Rapids thoroughly outplayed the Goats to a comfortable 2-0 victory. Both sides of the ball have been equally frustrating for Chivas of late, but the defense is in a much more critical condition than even the attack at this point. And while the Sounders are in the midst of a bad week, they can hang up three, four, five, even more goals on an opponent, as they've shown this season and in the past with Chivas in particular.
With the new coaching situation at Chivas, it will be interesting to see not only who starts, but what the defensive formation will be. I think just about everybody expects to see four defenders along the backline in this match, although we won't know for sure until the game begins. I figure Mario de Luna's still out there, but frankly, the other three spots could be up for grabs to a certain extent. Still, Chelís played all but one outfield player this season, so you already pretty much know what the options are. As a result, it will be a matter of seeing if a different strategy and one more player back there could make an improvement. Seattle may be in a low moment, but they still have considerable danger in attack among their available options, so by no means can Chivas expect they'll just miraculously perform better.
Why Chivas will win this match: Again, the Sounders are feeling bad. They think they stink, they just lost at the same stadium last week 4-0, and they have been very inconsistent this season. If they come out flat, and if Chivas come out strong, then they can certainly get a result, since once again this is MLS and any team can beat any other team on a given week. One factor to consider in this match is if Chivas will raise their intensity and commitment level in this game in light of the coaching change. Players often get a temporary boost from the switch in coaches, as they seek to show they aren't the problem, and to impress the new boss. Could that play a role in this match?
Why Seattle will win this match: The big boost from players normally comes if a coach who is hated leaves. I don't get the impression the players hated Chelís - I think they in fact loved playing for him. So maybe they will slump further (what a horrible prospect) now that Chelís is out. And with Sacha van der Most in charge for this game, presumably the only time he'll be coaching the first team, the players may not really care if they impress him or not. On top of that, prior to the league loss last week, the Sounders had been on a six game unbeaten run, a span that included four wins. And given the recent history between these teams, the Sounders are great at scoring early and often against the Goats. I'm shocked, frankly, at how down Sounders fans are on their team at the moment, and they look like clear favorites in this match to me.
Why this game will end in a draw: Well, let's see: two teams in poor(ish for Seattle) form who are feeling pretty down on their luck. Chivas are distracted by all the hubbub going on around the club, while Seattle are bummed they can't win the Open Cup this year. Add to that the referee for this match will be Ricardo Salazar, who had a pretty crazy showing in his last game officiating Chivas USA, and this could be a really disjointed match. I don't really see a draw, but you never know.
Chivas: Julio Morales (international duty), Daniel Antunez (knee), Tim Melia (back), Edgar Mejia (ankle), Tristan Bowen (hamstring - listed as questionable), Steve Purdy (hamstring - listed as questionable)
Seattle: Shalrie Joseph (suspended), Eddie Johnson (international duty), Brad Evans (international duty) Osvaldo Alonso (adductor - listed as questionable), Steve Zakuani (abdominal - listed as questionable)