Chivas USA try to do the previously unthinkable when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, looking to win their fourth consecutive game (7 pm PT, MLS Live - this one won't be on local TV, unfortunately). The Goats are riding high, but they'll face a team with considerably more talent in the Whitecaps, who just beat the Seattle Sounders last week in a Cascadia Cup clash. Can Chivas gain some revenge for their draw earlier this year, and get yet another win on the road? We'll find out this evening!
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 20 points (5-7-5), 8th place in Western Conference, 12th place overall; Goal Difference: -9 (17/26); Last five matches: W-W-W-D-L
Vancouver Whitecaps: 25 points (6-3-7), 5th place in Western Conference, 7th place overall; Goal Difference: 4 (26/22); Last five matches: W-L-D-D-W
Can the defense continue its run? Questions, of course, persist on both sides of the ball, with the team leaning very heavily on Erick Torres as their only scoring option, and the defense playing well...lately. Their goals against mark has improved considerably in the league standings of late, and that's what three shutouts will do.
But the Whitecaps have more troublesome attacking weapons than some of the Goats' recent opponents. For starters, there's Kekuta Manneh, who turned on the jets in the teams' first meeting this season, blew by Chivas' slow defense, and scored the equalizer. Playmaker Pedro Morales has been in fantastic form and hits a pass better than anybody in the league right now, for my money. Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado have had their ups and downs this season, but can pop up with goals at any time (and both also have speed to burn, too), and Sebastian Fernandez is pretty crafty with firing long-range rockets. This team has a variety of ways to beat defenses, and Chivas are going to have their hands full here. Does that mean their shoutout streak will come to a close? Probably. But that doesn't mean they can't continue to work as a team, and rely on both the players in front of them to help with the defensive load as well as Dan Kennedy as the last line of defense in the back. Cubo is carrying this team at the moment, but that's not to say that the defense doesn't have a massive role to play in all this. In the end, this team will likely only go as far as the defense can take them.
Why Chivas will win this match: They may have reached a point where the chemistry among the team, now largely the same 15-16 guys on a game-to-game basis, has really kicked in, and they will have thrown off the sometimes-awful form of the first half of the season to the side for good. I don't think they can win the next 17 games, of course, but they have done just enough to get results of late, and considering the softish red card they picked up the last time they played Vancouver, maybe this time they'll get some luck in their favor. Also, while Cubo is unlikely to score in all of the next 17 games, he's on a roll right now, and has shown that he is able to adapt his game, even with defenses completely keying in on him. He's also scored four goals in his previous three games against the Whitecaps, so he clearly has found a knack against this team in particular. Can his teammates step up to keep the good times rolling?
Why Vancouver will win this match: Despite winning their last three games, Chivas actually looked pretty poor in all three. The difference was that they kept their struggling opponents off the board and got enough on the scoresheet to pick up the points. Vancouver may not be one of the very best teams in MLS, and they are a team that can be beaten, but they have really been quite good overall this season, on pace to make the playoffs at the moment. While Chivas have shown some impressive heart on this winning streak, they are going to face a much tougher test in this one, and Vancouver aren't likely to be caught off guard heading into this game. They are heavily favored in this game, too, so even with a winning streak, CUSA have some people to win over yet.
Why this game will end in a draw: These teams have had a knack for drawing over the years, and that seems fairly likely in this game. Although Chivas really need wins to keep their momentum going, a draw on the road against a team in the playoff positions wouldn't be a terrible result. Still, if they managed to win, and if both the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers failed to win this weekend, the Goats would leapfrog them in the standings and be sitting just outside the playoff places. So if this team really has what it takes to make a playoff push in 2014, they need to grab three points here.
Whitecaps: Jay DeMerit (ankle)