Chivas USA will look to continue their good form against Eastern Conference opposition, as well as grab their second win of the 2014 season, when they welcome the Houston Dynamo this evening for the teams' only meeting of the season (7:30 pm PT, MLS Live/tickets still available). Chivas are coming off a 1-0 loss last week, while the Dynamo tied Portland 1-1 in their last match, and Houston are frankly as desperate as Chivas for a win at this point, as they haven't won since the second game of the season. Can either side pick up a full three points? It will be more than welcome for the victors and their fans.
If you missed it, be sure to check out the Three Questions feature with Dynamo Theory from Friday.
Now, let's preview this game!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 6 points (1-4-3), 8th in Western Conference, 16th place overall; Goal Difference: -6 (8/14); Last five matches: L-L-D-L-D
Houston Dynamo: 8 points (2-4-2), 7th in Eastern Conference, 13th place overall; Goal Difference: -5 (8/13); Last five matches: D-L-D-L-L
Chivas' defense corner
It looks like Donny Toia is likely to start for a second consecutive week at left back, as Tony Lochhead and Andrew Jean-Baptiste have both been ruled out. Toia was steady in his first career start, and has been learning the position since he was signed, and fortunately Chivas has some depth at that position. Still, Wilmer Cabrera originally chose to play AJB out of position rather than go with Toia when Lochhead got hurt, so who knows how much the coach trusts him. Still, it looks like he's a go for this one.
Bobby Burling is a question mark coming into the game, so it's possible Eriq Zavaleta could see action in the middle instead of Burling. As I've written, Burling and Zavaleta add their own strengths and take away unique weaknesses, so it's a "pick your poison" type situation, though Burling still probably deserves the edge, all things being equal, if he is healthy enough. Still, the point is that this defense is still undergoing a lot of lineup churn.
Add to that the fact that Tim Melia will be starting in place of a suspended Dan Kennedy, and we have another game where the defensive issues are a big question. However, I'm not particularly worried about Melia, as I expect he'll manage the game just fine, and it will be up to the other 10 players on the field (assuming there aren't any Goats red cards, of course) to get a result. And not to be overconfident, but Houston's been struggling to score of late. Can Chivas even raise their game defensively, get a result and some much-needed confidence back? That's the biggest question.
Why Chivas will win this game: As mentioned, Houston are on a terrible run. They've scored just one goal on the road this season, and haven't won in the last six matches. Spirits are low, they've had red cards that they believe are unwarranted, and their defense hasn't looked particularly assured. Sound familiar? Ok, so Chivas have had an almost identical run, but if you can't get up for these games, the season's going to be a lot longer and unfun than we were hoping for this year. Is it a must-win game? Technically no. But let's be real, this team is falling further and further behind every week. They've had adversity, but if they want to truly be competitive, they need to get some more results, and in particular, more wins. There's no time like the present to keep a positive streak, in this case the unbeaten start against Eastern Conference opposition, going, and there's no reason to believe they don't have a good shot of doing it.
Why Houston will win this game: Sure, they've been struggling, and yes, they're on the road, but they have two related factors in their favor. First, they have a coach, Dominic Kinnear, who's proven he knows what he's doing and has a fantastic track record in MLS. Second, the core of their team has been together for years. Tim Melia is Chivas third-longest tenured player. He joined the team in 2012! The Dynamo have made stability a hallmark of their team and organization, and it's turned out well over the years. They may be in a rut, but they've climbed out of those before. They know what it takes, and with Chivas in a bad patch, too, they are looking forward to this fixture to reverse their slide, too. Although he may still be a bit battered, the likely start of captain Brad Davis should give the Dynamo a potent set piece threat, and while Chivas have been largely solid on set pieces, Davis' delivery is consistently among the best in the league. It may be a tight game, but I think it's quite likely the Dynamo will do like the Quakes last week, and get some traction in their season with a win over the Goats. Oh, and Chivas will be without Kennedy and Mauro Rosales, who's been one of their most important players this year. Great.
Why this game will end in a draw: Two poor teams, with sputtering attacks and shaky defenses, trying to get on track? Sounds like a recipe for a draw. That said, I'm not really feeling the tie in this game. Chivas should have more points than they do, but they aren't getting the job done. They certainly could get a result here, and like I said, they need to, but if I'm being honest, I think they should be slight underdogs in this game. We'll see.
Chivas: Dan Kennedy (suspended - red card), Thomas McNamara (knee), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (sports hernia), Mauro Rosales (adductor), Tony Lochhead (hamstring), Lyle Martin (hamstring), Bobby Burling (back - listed as questionable), Matt Dunn (head - listed as questionable)