Chivas USA continue their road trip with their first-ever stop at Stade Saputo to take on the Montreal Impact Sunday (4 pm PT, MLS Live). Although Chivas have the edge in the all-time series (that being a single match, which Chivas won last season), Montreal has been perhaps the most improved team in MLS this year, and sit atop the Eastern Conference, while Chivas remain well behind the pack in the West. Still, Chivas have improved in each of the four matches they've played under Jose Luis Real, and while this game will certainly be a major test, confidence is growing that the Goats could find more points yet.
With that, let's preview this match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 13 points (3-10-4), 9th place in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -16 (15/31); Last five matches: D-D-L-L-L
Montreal Impact: 30 points (9-4-3), 1st place in Eastern Conference, 3rd place overall; Goal Difference: 6 (30/24); Last five matches: D-L-W-L-W
Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Montreal attack
Both clubs are coming into this game following midweek matches on the road, Chivas on Thursday against FC Dallas and Montreal on Wednesday against Toronto FC. So with one more day of rest and a shorter distance to travel, plus being at home, Montreal already seems to have a bit of an edge. But while the talking points heading into the match are that Montreal has allowed seven goals in their last two games, they have also scored six goals in those outings. Their recent matches have been exciting, but I think it is clear that however shaky the Impact's defense has been the last couple of matches, Chivas are just not in a position to get involved in a shootout.
That means the priority for the Goats goes back to the that familiar refrain: defense, defense, defense. Chivas have looked much better the past two games in particular, allowing just one goal, and they've allowed five goals altogether in Real's four games. They're getting better! But that doesn't mean they can rest on their laurels and think they have it all figured out. Again, the Impact have been very good this season, the last couple games notwithstanding. They have weapons all over the field, from Marco Di Vaio, who leads the league in scoring (and has scored the vast majority of his goals at home this season), to midfielder/forward Felipe Martins, midfielder Andres Romero, and even defender Hassoun Camara, who has made a habit this season of scoring on bicycle kicks. The point is that merely stopping Di Vaio (and that's going to be a tall task) won't be good enough. Chivas will need to maintain their focus and ability to multitask on the defensive end for the whole game. If they can do that, they'll have a decent shot in this game.
Why Chivas will win this match: Again, they've been on an upward trajectory the last four games. Does that mean they won't have any setbacks? No. But early in the season Chivas had a level of tenacity that served them well to start the year. Now, with the standard tactics being implemented, plus signs of that fight returning, they are putting together the tools to finally get back on the winning side. Additionally, the players who are on the team right now have the motivation to really impress Real, before the expected (and actual) reinforcements start coming to the team. During the broadcast of Thursday's game, announcer Brian Dunseth said Chivas could get upwards of six new players in this transfer window. The club has already added two, and there are rumors surrounding a few more, but for the task at hand, this game, the players who are already on the roster have a perfect opportunity to stake a claim on keeping a place in the lineup, even when the roster expands to normal levels. The best way to impress the coach? Knock off the top team in the Eastern Conference, especially one that seems a bit wobbly at the moment.
Why Montreal will win this match: Make no mistake, the Impact are heavy, heavy favorites in this game. Teams that travel all the way from one end of the continent to the other don't usually fare well in road games, and there is clearly a talent imbalance between these clubs. You could say that Montreal has some "experienced" (read: old) players who may be rested or won't play significant minutes in this game, but one of the key features of this 2013 Montreal team is how deep the roster is. Youngsters have stepped up when given a chance, and if the big name players are playing well, they will likely roll over Chivas. On paper, the Impact look like they will win this game easily. But soccer games aren't played on paper, so we'll see if they can snap their recent slide before it becomes a real problem.
Why this match will end in a draw: Is it time to get greedy about Chivas picking up points? Obviously getting a win is the best plan, and the Goats sit way, way back of the rest of the Western Conference (8th place San Jose is 8 points ahead). But would another road draw, against another top team, be a bad result? Absolutely not. Dallas presented a big challenge earlier in the week, and Chivas were able to notch their first clean sheet of the season, a good accomplishment. In many ways, Montreal is a continuation of that challenge, and if Chivas can get another point, it will make for a successful week. For their part, the Impact will be disappointed if this game ends in a draw, but given the timing of the game and the possibility they many underestimate Chivas, a draw is certainly a possibility.
Chivas: Steve Purdy (international duty), Daniel Antunez (knee), Caleb Calvert (foot), Tim Melia (back), Martin Ponce (hamstring), Jose Correa (quad - listed as questionable), Mario de Luna (hamstring - listed as questionable), Oswaldo Minda (adductor - listed as questionable)
Impact: Nelson Rivas (knee)