This week, Chivas USA gets the game week going, as they are in Pennsylvania to face the Philadelphia Union this afternoon (4:30 pm PT, MLS Live). Yeah, I know, some of you will still be working when this game gets underway, but thems the breaks, what with the time changes and all. Chivas are coming off three games with three draws, two on the road, while the Union are coming off a road loss to the Houston Dynamo (who had previously been on a rather surprising losing streak of their own), and they will regard Chivas as a poor team that can be easily beaten. In fact, history is on Philly's side, as Chivas have never beaten the Union, but maybe this is the day when the Goats notch that win?
If you missed it, take a look at the Three Questions feature with Scott Kessler from earlier today.
On to the preview!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 14 points (3-10-5), 9th place in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -16 (16/32); Last five matches: D-D-D-L-L
Philadelphia Union: 27 points (7-6-6), 4th place in Eastern Conference, 9th place overall; Goal Difference: 0 (29/29); Last five matches: L-D-D-W-W
Key Match-up: Chivas midfield vs. Union midfield
I'm mixing it up a bit for this game, not just for the sake of doing it, but because it makes considerable sense. Chivas have a glut of midfielders on the roster right now, but their strengths primarily seem to be on the flanks, while Carlos Alvarez has essentially become the go-to central attacking midfielder on the team. Still, there are considerable questions in the other central midfield position(s), as Oswaldo Minda and Edgar Mejia have both been hurt for sustained portions of the season. I've argued repeatedly that the rumors surrounding Minda's possible departure could prove very significant for Chivas' flickering fortunes this season, as he is by far the best defensive midfielder on the roster, and is in my mind the most talented outfield player on the squad (we'll see where the new arrivals shake out in the coming weeks). And when Jose Luis Real basically went without a true holding midfielder against Montreal last weekend, the plan worked, since the Impact did likewise...until Patrice Bernier entered, and then transformed the game.
Thus, it is up to Chivas' midfield, however it may be constituted, to dictate the game for the Goats. The defense of course needs to be strong, and whoever might be playing up top needs to really challenge Philly's defense. But since the midfield is central to making sure the attack flows, and shoring up the defense, they will play a key part in this game. Hopefully, they can stand tall against a Union midfield that has had some shuffling of its own this season.
Why Chivas will win this match: In two of Chivas' last three draws, they have taken the lead, only to see a mistake negate the advantage. At some point, this team will win again, especially since they appear to be back with the living of MLS once more. And with Philadelphia missing leading scorer Jack McInerney, it will be easier for the Goats to track secondary weapons Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux. Meanwhile, despite some good performances this season, the Union's defense is statistically about as bad as Chivas' since they've only let in three fewer goals to this point than the Goats. Overall, it appears that the Union continue to be an inconsistent team, and with their breakout star missing, and the fact that they may be taking Chivas lightly as an opponent, the Goats could finally, finally get that sweet taste of victory once more.
Why Philadelphia will win this match: In a weird way, could this be a "trap" game for Chivas? I know trap games are normally used to refer to good teams that lose games they shouldn't, but with the good vibes starting to pile up around Chivatown, and continual improvement since Real's tenure began, could we see the team fall off the form wagon once more? It is a distinct possibility, you have to admit. And again, Chivas have never beaten Philly, and this is at PPL Park, so the Union have cause for confidence in this one. I don't think Philadelphia is a heavy favorite, but they are still a favorite.
Why this match will end in a draw: I have a feeling there will be a red card in this game, and somehow, I feel like former Union player Gabriel Farfan will be involved one way or the other. That possibility, plus the teams' converging form, means a draw feels like it's on the docket once more. Would Chivas be happy with a draw again? I think a point is better than no points, certainly. But depending on how the game shakes out, a win has to be in the cards soon, doesn't it?
Chivas: Steve Purdy (international duty), Daniel Antunez (knee), Tim Melia (back), Martin Ponce (hamstring), Caleb Calvert (foot), Jose Correa (quad - listed as questionable), Oswaldo Minda (adductor - listed as questionable), Edgar Mejia (adductor - listed as questionable)
Union: Jack McInerney (international duty), Keon Daniel (international duty), Conor Casey (illness - listed as questionable), Kleberson (quad - listed as questionable), Michael Lahoud (sports hernia - listed as questionable)