Preview: Chivas USA vs. Chicago Fire, March 9, 2014

USA TODAY Sports

Gear up for the season opener!

The new season is here! Chivas USA host the Chicago Fire to open the 2014 MLS campaign Sunday afternoon (12 pm PT, UniMas/tickets still available). Both sides have changed coaches, made considerable changes to their rosters, and now it's time to see these teams in action in meaningful games. Can either side get three points to start the season off right? We will find out very soon!

If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions feature with Sean Spence from Thursday.

On with the preview!

Tale of the Tape:

Chivas USA: 0 points (1st game of the season)

Chicago Fire: 0 points (1st game of the season)

Key Match-up: Chivas defense vs. Chicago attack

Yes, I know I pick this match-up more often than not, but until the Goats can demonstrate they aren't going to be at risk of going down 3-0 in the first 15 minutes of a game, the defense remains the key concern for this team. At least half of the defense will be new to the starting lineup, as Tony Lochhead and converted right back Eric Avila appear poised to slot in beside Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling. On the bright side, it's unlikely that speed is going to be the main weapon of Chicago's attack, with only Patrick Nyarko capable of blowing by defenders, and since he's usually setting up the Fire's goalscorers, Chivas' center backs have a prayer of keeping attackers in front of them in this game if they keep their shape and recover well.

On the other hand, Chicago is likely going to try to push Chivas defensively with the number of options, and stretch out the defense with players making runs throughout the final third. Mike Magee will be the focal point, and for good reason, but while the reigning MVP will still be Chicago's first option, there is a group of attackers who will look to impress new coach Frank Yallop and ensure a regular starting spot. Pundits have raved about young DP Jose Luis Anangono in the preseason, and he looks like the kind of forward tailor-made for a Yallop team. Chris Rolfe, whose profile has slipped but who can still go on a scoring run, and Dilly Duka, who is talented but has never fully unlocked his potential, could also prove tricky for Chivas. There's no doubt, the questionable Chivas backline will be put to the test in the very first week, and probably ever single week after.

Why Chivas will win this match: It's sort of a new era off the field, and certainly a new era on it. Can this team set the tone for the post-Vergara era by getting a win? It's certainly possible, and with both teams getting used to the new coaches and new personnel, Chivas can certainly surprise the Fire. For what it's worth, half of the editors/Cobi Jones picking the games this week on MLSsoccer.com took Chivas to win, so it's not just fans feeling optimistic after a good preseason. It's far from a sure bet, but there is a sense of hope, and it's up to this team to turn that hope into actual points.

Why Chicago will win this match: They may have some turnover this preseason, but nearly all of their starters return from the end of last season. And they do have the reigning league MVP on their squad, and while he'll have more scrutiny than ever and probably won't be able to match the highs of 2013, Magee can still break a game open on his own. Plus, while both Yallop and Cabrera are in charge of new teams, Yallop has plenty of MLS head coaching experience, while Cabrera is a rookie at this level. Could the Fire boss give his team an edge with an in-game adjustment or substitution? Seems like a fair bet, and could dampen the good vibes in Chivatown as a result.

Why this game will end in a draw: It's the first game of the season, and once again, with the new systems and players and it being the beginning, it could be sloppy and cagey, and it could very well lead to a stalemate. The question is whether a draw would satisfy Goats fans. On one hand, this team won't be able to take points for granted this year, but every year they've lost their season opener they've failed to make the playoffs, so even if they avoid that fate, hope could remain alive! It would depend on performance and such, but I think a draw wouldn't be a terrible result, all things considered.

Notable absences:

LOL, literally not a word of injury reporting for either side.

No suspensions, either. That information is available.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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