Chivas USA are set to cross another opponent off their list tonight, when they host Toronto FC for the teams' only meeting of the 2013 season (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live). These teams are neck and neck in the league standings, with Chivas sitting just a point ahead of the Ontario club at the moment, although Toronto notched the most recent win this season, just last month, while Chivas still haven't won since March. Will either side get the win tonight? It should be an interesting match.
On to the preview!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 14 points (3-11-5), 9th place in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -18 (17/35); Last five matches: L-D-D-D-L
Toronto FC: 13 points (2-9-7), 9th place in Eastern Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -10 (17/27); Last five matches: L-D-L-D-W
Key Match-up: Chivas' attack vs. Toronto defense
Make no mistake, Chivas still need to work on their defense, and figure out what's happening in the holding midfielder position on the team. But if ever there was a game for the attack to really pick up confidence, it has to be this one. Jorge Villafana and Eric Avila (and to a lesser extent, Tristan Bowen when playing on the right) have been the most consistent attacking players on the team in recent months. Jose Correa finally scored last week, while Julio Morales is still looking for his first goal with Chivas USA. Will Erick Torres make his debut tonight? I'd love to see him, and see if he can get off the mark right away. Can Carlos Alvarez get back on track? As you can see, there are plenty of players who have something to prove on the attacking end right now, and this game represents a major opportunity.
On the flip side, TFC is shuffling their backline once again. Captain Darren O'Dea was run out of town suddenly last week, and Doneil Henry has a red card suspension to deal with now that he's back from Gold Cup duty with Canada. Danny Califf, who to be fair hadn't played in months, retired recently. So that leaves some questions. Although Steven Caldwell and Gale Agbossoumonde look set to pair in central defense, there are questions of who will be the fullbacks. Will it be Ashtone Morgan, back from Gold Cup duty as well? Darel Russell? Richard Eckersley? Ryan Richter? Somebody else? With the uncertainty, Chivas should really look to score more than a goal in this one.
Why Chivas will win this match: Chivas have the series lead all-time, and they are undefeated to TFC at home, winning in all five prior matches. Does that mean that Chivas can just cruise? Remember, they haven't won a league match since March, so I wouldn't say it's a done deal. But this game comes at a good time for the Goats, as they have been improving of late, and they will get a win at some point. Although I've been saying it in recent games, this really does seem like Chivas' best chance to get off the mark and finally get three points, as long as they keep playing the solid soccer they've been playing for the past month.
Why Toronto will win this match: Chivas' winning streak will have to come to an end at some point, right? Chivas may not be all-out favorites for this game, but they have the edge here, and will probably feel some pressure. For TFC, no pressure! They can just run out and play their best, knowing they are facing a vulnerable opponent themselves. Plus, they beat a fellow bottom-dweller already this season, when they bested D.C. United, so they have the experience of beating bad teams. And although there's quite a gap between them and the next lowest team in the standings, three points could help them kickstart coach Ryan Nelsen's claim that the playoffs are certainly still in reach.
Why this match will end in a draw: It's a midweek game, for one thing, and those just seem to have more draws. These teams are both pretty poor, and with two very distinct plans for building a team, they could find their difference just end up canceling out in the end. Plus, they will both look to defend first, which could make for a very dull affair. I really don't want to see a draw here, but it's certainly in play.
Chivas: Steve Purdy (international duty), Josue Soto (red card suspension), Daniel Antunez (knee), Tim Melia (back), Caleb Calvert (foot), Martin Ponce (hamstring), Oswaldo Minda (adductor - listed as questionable)