The good news? Chivas USA can turn to a new game to try and wipe the bitter taste of last weekend's defeat out of their mouths. The bad news? They'll be playing another talented team that is so far winless this season, the Portland Timbers. The game is in PDX this evening (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live). Can the Goats rebound quickly, or is their hangover bound to be lengthy? We will find out tonight.
Time to preview...
Tale of the tape:
Chivas USA: 5 points (1-2-2), 6th in Western Conference, 11th place overall; Goal Difference: -4 (6/10); Last five matches: L-D-L-D-W
Portland Timbers: 3 points (0-2-3), 8th in Western Conference, 17th place overall; Goal Difference: -3 (7/10); Last five matches: D-L-L-D-D
Chivas defense corner: Look, I don't know if I've worn out this feature already or not, but let's be clear -- the defense is unquestionably a massive concern right now. Not only are the starters fairly shaky to begin with, but the fact that one starter is definitely out and a second might be raises the anxiety levels surrounding this team. Though it sounds as though Bobby Burling may be ready to go for this game, we'll have to wait until gametime to know, and even if he plays, there will be questions about his durability and fitness levels against a dangerous Timbers attack.
Tony Lochhead is out, and the next big question is whether Andrew Jean-Baptiste will line up as a makeshift left back for the second straight game, or if Wilmer Cabrera will tinker with the starter there. Cabrera hasn't been afraid of making changes, and AJB didn't look like a left back. Then again, he's not an LB, but there aren't many more options (Donny Toia appears to be the only one, and it's telling that Cabrera preferred a player out of position to him last week).
Beyond that, the continued absence of Oswaldo Minda puts considerably more pressure on the backline, and I'm not sure they can handle it. I wish I wasn't such a killjoy when it comes to Chivas' defense, but last week's poor showing leaves me even more concerned than last week. I wish I could focus on other topics, but the defense is probably going to make or break this team week to week, and overall for the season.
Why Chivas will win this game: Well, the Timbers don't have some kind of mystical power over Chivas like the Galaxy evidently do, so hopefully the Goats will by psyched up for the game from the get go. If they don't walk into the game like they're about to lose it, and especially if they can get their attack going (since they would probably need to outscore Portland in a goalfest, instead of trying to sit on a 1-0 lead), they have every chance of getting a win. Here's where Cabrera will need to show his ability to not only motivate the players to move on to this game with a fresh outlook, but to also prepare for the game intelligently to give Chivas the best opportunity to win.
Frankly, if Chivas can take an early lead, and then keep pushing to add to that lead, it will be their best option against a dangerous team on the road. Yeah, I know, that's probably a good strategy for all games, but with the Timbers' defensive issues of late, it makes even more sense here.
Why the Timbers will win this game: I have the sneaking suspicion Portland will win this, and it won't be close. Chivas may have tried to wipe the awfulness of the past away after the ownership change, but Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, and Chivas have a lot more building to go to be truly competitive in this league. Add to that Portland's talent despite their slow start, and the fact that they started slow last season before going on a long unbeaten run, and this game looks pretty clearly like it's pointing in the Timbers' direction.
Given their own defensive vulnerabilities, as well as Chivas' issues, I expect Portland to try and score early and often. It's been said they've been holding possession too much without actually doing enough with it (or to paraphrase Portland coach Caleb Porter's own terminology, it's possession without purpose). Chivas are missing their midfield destroyer, and their full backs are not the strength of the team. Looks like a tasty, tasty game for the home side.
Why this game will end in a draw: Certainly, it could happen, especially if PKs and/or red cards come into play once more, which has happened a lot for these two teams so far this year. While Chivas really could use a win, a draw would frankly be a decent result, given the opponent and location of the match, and would maintain the team's goal of remaining "competitive" in 2014.
Chivas: Marky Delgado (international duty), Oswaldo Minda (Achilles), Tony Lochhead (hamstring), Bobby Burling (shoulder - listed as questionable), Kris Tyrpak (knee - listed as questionable), Lyle Martin (foot - listed as questionable)