Chivas USA have fallen into a pattern from the second week of the season on. One week, they get a draw, and the next, they lose. Last week, they lost, so this week...they're going to pick up a point, right? The Goats are up in the Bay Area, and will take on the San Jose Earthquakes this evening (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live), seeking a point, or maybe three. The Quakes are winless so far this season, while Chivas haven't won since opening day. Both teams are probably feeling pretty good about their chances, but let's see if one team can actually get a rare win, or if they'll split the points.
Time to preview the game!
Tale of the tape:
Chivas USA: 6 points (1-3-3), 7th in Western Conference, 15th place overall; Goal Difference: -5 (8/13); Last five matches: L-D-L-D-L
San Jose Earthquakes: 3 points (0-2-3), 9th in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -2 (5/7); Last five games: D-D-L-L-D
Chivas' defense corner: So Chivas had to shuffle their defense again last week, to mixed results. They lost, but they only allowed two goals, and one of those was firmly Dan Kennedy's fault. On the positive side, Bobby Burling was back in the middle alongside Carlos Bocanegra, and again, the defense was culpable for just one goal. Unfortunately, Burling and Bocanegra got torched on that winning goal, as their lack of pace was exploited easily by the Sounders. So it goes.
I think that means that Eriq Zavaleta could get the nod at some point again this season, even if Burling and Bocanegra are both healthy. Zavaleta is raw, so he will be making mistakes, but his speed helped Chivas keep up with the quick attackers, and he was good at aerial duties as well.
As it stands, both starting left back Tony Lochhead and his replacement, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, are out injured. Donny Toia has come off the bench for both players during games, but Wilmer Cabrera hasn't given him the start. I'd say he'll get his first MLS start in this one, though Cabrera's penchant for playing surprising starters means you can't rule out...well, who knows? I'd say maybe Zavaleta will get the start, but I would also think that for a player learning a new position at a pro level, it may be especially risky to then switch him to a different position. My gut says Toia will start, but Zavaleta could have a decent chance to go at left back, too, and either way, I'm guessing San Jose will try to attack Chivas on that side of the field to take advantage of whoever is playing there.
Why Chivas will win this game: The Quakes are dealing with a lot of injuries, and there's still a sense that things aren't really clicking for them yet. Really, they did the almost-unheard of trick of signing several contributors last season during the summer transfer window, but I guess things tend to balance out, because the newcomers from the most recent window are not really hitting the ground running yet. After trading away both of their previously starting full backs in the offseason, that position has been a particular problem, with injuries decimating the defense all around, and their "big-name" addition, French midfielder Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, was benched last week as he and coach Mark Watson try to figure things out for him. Then throw in the now-perpetual injury problems for Steven Lenhart (who is definitely out) and Alan Gordon (who is probably out) and there's been some adversity.
The trick for Chivas is to capitalize on the unsettled situation with San Jose. The Quakes are starting to get a feel for this season, and they've shown under Watson that they can build up their quality over the course of the season. Chivas, who have dealt with injuries and suspensions of their own, are getting healthier, and the likely inclusion of Oswaldo Minda back to the starting lineup should help solidify the backline. As it always does, it will take a good performance on both ends of the field, but Chivas have to feel they can get back to winning ways in this one, even if it is on the road.
Why San Jose will win this game: Well, Chivas haven't beaten San Jose since 2011, and they haven't beaten any team on the road in league play in more than a year. So that's going to give the hosts an edge right off the bat. In addition, San Jose know that even for all of their struggles so far this season, they have a good core of players who have been together for a long time, and who play well together more often than not. The Quakes haven't gotten a lot of attention concerning their winless start to the season, part of that because of who they are, and partly because other teams are drawing more attention for their early struggles. But they know that a game against a rebuilding Chivas is as good of a reason as any to get going on winning. They are favored in the game, and they should be, but I think this game could be closer than many might expect.
Why this game will end in a draw: Again, I'm getting a feeling this one's going to be close, and a tie may be a likely outcome, not least because of the form pattern Chivas have shown the last six games. While I would certainly prefer a draw to a loss, the reality is that the longer Chivas go without winning, the less likely they're going to be to get any winning momentum going themselves. The bar may be set low for Chivas this year, but the pace they are on for wins right now means they'll finish around the same spot they have been the past few years, and that's simply not good enough. Of course, let's see how this game plays out before we make grand pronouncements about this season.
Quakes: Adam Jahn (suspended), Steven Lenhart (knee), Jason Hernandez (quad), Jordan Stewart (quad - listed as questionable), Khari Stephenson (calf - listed as questionable), Alan Gordon (hip - listed as questionable)