Chivas USA return to "their" field this evening for their first meeting of 2014 against the Seattle Sounders (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live/Tickets available). Chivas are coming off a draw last week, to the Portland Timbers, while Seattle won last week, 3-2 over FC Dallas. I'd say Seattle are feeling really good right now, which is true, but the Goats showed last week they have some fight left in them yet, and could battle for a result in this one.
Let's preview the game!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 6 points (1-2-3), 7th in Western Conference, 15th place overall; Goal Difference: -4 (7/11); Last five matches: D-L-D-L-D
Seattle Sounders: 10 points (3-2-1), 3rd in Western Conference, 4th place overall; Goal Difference: 2 (12/10); Last five matches: W-D-L-W-L
Chivas defense corner: Expect more changes for the defense for this match, necessitated by Eriq Zavaleta's ineligibility in accordance with the terms of his loan. Bobby Burling should slot in for Zavaleta now that he's back and apparently fit, though with Wilmer Cabrera, we may see a surprise or two on the backline. I would expect Eric Avila and Carlos Bocanegra to start again, and since Tony Lochhead is out once more, it seems likely that Andrew Jean-Baptiste will get the nod at left back for the third straight game.
But as we know with this team, the players sitting just ahead of the backline can be just as crucial for the defense's prospects. Oswaldo Minda is off the injury report entirely, so he may be able to return for this match. If he and Agustin Pelletieri can join forces as a double pivot in the middle, I'll certainly feel a lot better about Chivas' prospects in this game. But Cabrera may not be ready to put Minda on the field just yet, and may turn to other options, including Marky Delgado. Delgado has gotten some time so far this season as a holding mid, more than I expected through this point, and he's been held back from the US U-20 national team as he was deemed more important for his club at the moment. I liked Delgado in the last reserve game, against Sacramento Republic, but the quality of them as opposed to the Sounders is considerably different.
Let's say Avila, Burling, Bocanegra, and AJB start, and let's say Minda plays too. On the bright side, this group will deal with aerial balls quite well. On the other hand, the middle will be very susceptible to speed, and Seattle has some speedy options, whether that's Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin on the flank, or Lamar Neagle. It's going to take a lot of teamwork, as it does every week, but the Sounders have plenty of options and Chivas need to be at their best to contain their opponents.
Why Chivas will win this match: For one thing, it's been too long since Chivas beat Seattle. I'm not saying they should be considered favorites or anything like that, but they haven't beaten the Sounders since June 2009. I don't know if that's the longest winless streak against an opponent, but it's pretty damn long. And with the parity in MLS and all that, streaks like that shouldn't last for more than four years. Plus, Chivas played pretty well last week, showing they can bounce back from poor results, so there's reason to believe they can continue the rebuilding work and vanquish this awful streak.
Why Seattle will win this match: They are favored in this game, despite being on the road, and given their potent goalscoring form in recent games (seven goals in their last two matches) that's no surprise. Combine that with the fact that Chivas are tied for giving up the most goals in the league at this point, and it looks like another rout is in the cards. Though Chivas played well in their last game, they have established a pattern the last month where they play pretty well one week, then poorly the next. If that form holds, this week they'll play badly again. I actually think this game could be closer than the statistics would indicate, but a Sounders win certainly wouldn't be surprising, even before you take the historical record into account.
Why this game will end in a draw: Though Chivas haven't beaten the Sounders in what feels like forever, there have been draws over the years, and this could be another match where Chivas play pretty well, don't have enough to beat their opponent, but can do enough to earn a point. I think that's actually a decent possibility, but again, patterns and history and all that indicates a loss is a likely outcome for the Goats. If they did get a draw, that would probably be a good result, all things considered.
Chivas USA: Eriq Zavaleta (ineligible), Thomas McNamara (knee), Tony Lochhead (hamstring)