Chivas USA will be back in action on Wednesday, as they host the Portland Timbers for their first midweek game of the 2014 season (7:30 pm PT, Tickets certainly available/Time Warner Cable Deportes). Chivas are coming off a bye following a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas their last game out, while the Timbers beat the New York Red Bulls on the road this past weekend. Both sides will obviously be looking to grab some points before the league downshifts for a time during the World Cup, and a win would prove useful for both teams in the Western Conference.
If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions exchange with Michael Orr of Stumptown Footy from Tuesday.
Let's preview the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 10 points (2-5-4), 9th place in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -7 (13/20); Last five matches: D-W-L-L-L
Portland Timbers: 13 points (2-3-7), 8th place in Western Conference, 15th place overall; Goal Difference: -2 (18/20); Last five matches: W-D-D-W-D
Can Chivas maintain the seed of doubt for the Timbers? On the bright side, the first team Chivas played for the second time this season, FC Dallas, led to a much better performance (and result) by the Goats the second time around. The Goats drew with Portland in the teams' first meeting, up in Oregon, so does that mean they'll be able to grab a win at home? Not so fast. The Timbers may be sitting just ahead of Chivas in the Western standings, but they aren't stiffs, either. The biggest question consistently over the course of the season has been their defense, and those concerns persist. Timbers coach Caleb Porter played former Chivas USA players Jorge Villafana and Rauwshan McKenzie in the backline against New York, and they ended up picking up a win, so we may see them again. Still, I bet there will be more movement among that group, so who knows who will be lining up there.
Ultimately, it's up to Chivas to play smart, etc., but it's also up to them to try and maintain that seed of doubt in the Timbers that they are maybe not quite up to being one of the best teams this season. Put another way, Portland is vulnerable, but they are also capable of coming through and just crushing Chivas. CUSA need to play well and have the belief they are up to this test too, lest they reverse the the good work done in the last two games.
Why Chivas will win this match: The growing pains this team saw in April may be on the wane, and maybe this group has really started to put a footprint for eventual success. At the moment, that means getting wins and draws on a regular basis. In that respect, this game is pretty important, in that it will show whether or not they can keep positive momentum going, even coming out of a bye week. If they come out flat, then it may take some time for them to regain traction again. If, however, they defend Portland's potent attack well and link up well themselves on the attacking end, they have every chance of getting a win.
Why Portland will win this match: There's been a question in recent weeks if the Timbers are simply not (that) good this year, or if they are a little out of sorts and will be back in business sooner rather than later. I think the sense is that it's more likely to be the latter option, and if that's the case, they need a signature win to really announce to the rest of the league that they're back. Chivas have played slump busters to a couple teams this season, so that could definitely be in play here, especially if the Goats aren't quite in rhythm.
Why this game will end in a draw: The last two years, one team has swept the season series between these clubs. They drew in the first meeting this year -- perhaps form will hold and they'll grab a draw again. Perhaps more importantly, midweek games are known for being drawfests, as teams are either tired, saving themselves for the weekend, or just out of sorts a touch with the schedule changing. With Chivas rested but out of action for more than a week, and the Timbers in the midst of a three game stretch in eight days, the teams could be more than capable of playing to a stalemate.
Portland Timbers: Alvas Powell (suspended), Diego Chara (hand - listed as questionable), Michael Harrington (ankle - listed as questionable), Rodney Wallace (knee - listed as questionable), Ben Zemanski (concussion - listed as questionable)