Chivas USA will host the LA Galaxy in "The Last Clasico," or at least the last Clasico Angelino under the current brand, on Sunday evening (5 pm PT, Univision Deportes/Tickets available). Can the Goats end their scoreless streak, their winless streak and their run of bad form over the years against the Galaxy in one fell swoop? Or will the Galaxy grab a win yet again over this hapless team? The answer will come later today.
On to the preview...
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 24 points (6-12-6), 9th place in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -16 (21/37); Last five matches: L-D-L-L-L
LA Galaxy: 43 points (12/5-7), 2nd place in Western Conference, 3rd place overall; Goal Difference: 18 (45/27); Last five matches: W-W-W-L-D
Can Chivas stop the Galaxy's points train? CUSA are definitely underdogs against the Galaxy even when their form is relatively good. As we've seen in recent years, good form has been hard to find for this team, so the reality is that the first expectation is to hope Chivas can avoid a beating at the hands of their biggest rivals. But beyond that, how can they stop the Galaxy and go for a result?
First, Chivas must defend. Yeah, I realize they're on a scoreless streak, the standard of play has been anemic, and the prospect of "only losing by a goal" sounds awful. But in this case, the reality is that Chivas must defend well in order to grab a result. They will absolutely not be able to keep up in a shootout, so they need to keep the Galaxy to a goal or less, period, in order to get something out of the game. It's not sexy, but given the likes of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Gyasi Zardes, Alan Gordon (yeah, the guy who always scores against his old teams is back with the Galaxy now, so you probably know what that portends), plus a midfield that can score at any point, and CUSA need to be able to deal with incisive passing, both long balls and through the channels, multiple runners streaking in the box, set pieces and the occasional outstanding personal effort. That's all. /sarcasm
If, and only if they can manage that, then the second prong of stopping the Galaxy is scoring, of course. Erick Torres is the conduit of Chivas' attack, but he's been completely shackled in recent weeks, and as he'll be out of the lineup for the following two league games, the Goats will have a reckoning coming with their beyond-anemic attack. But for the game at hand, a goal from someone, anyone, will do. They may need more than one, but they'll have to start somewhere, and with their set piece threat now playing for Vancouver, the goal(s) is either coming from the run of play or a penalty.
This is all Soccer 101, obviously. The Galaxy are absolutely flying right now, and even Chivas playing at their very best may not be good enough to get something off their opponents. That's a hard reality to face. Does that mean the outcome is clear, before a ball has even been kicked? Of course not. The lineups may be changed up, red cards can happen, penalties can be called, the underdogs can thoroughly outplay the favorites. But this game, regardless of its importance for Chivas USA, is going to be very, very difficult. Buckle up for another wild 90 minutes.
Why Chivas will win this game: The Galaxy may be rocketing up the standings, but they played on Wednesday and Chivas didn't. Robbie Keane sat out Wednesday's game, so he could be fresh, or he could be out again, if he's legitimately hurt (I think he'll be playing). It's possible Landon Donovan could sit out this game, but I get the sense he'll be in the lineup every game he can be during his retirement tour. So there may be some shuffling of the Galaxy's lineup, and that could give Chivas an opening to take charge of the game. And despite his inability to grab a goal the last four games, Cubo Torres is a player who can take the game into his own hands and singlehandedly grab points for his team. It's possible Chivas can grab a win without his direct impact, but he'll most likely have a role in any success this team has. But he'll need help from the other 10 players, and if they're on, who knows? This is MLS...every team has at least a chance in every single game.
Why the Galaxy will win this game: They are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. They traditionally beat CUSA handily. Chivas are bad, once again. This may be a "road" game for the Galaxy, but since they're playing at their own stadium, one CUSA are so bad in, they will have the home field advantage. And with Landon Donovan retiring, the Galaxy now have the motivation to take them over the top, to completely focus on getting silverware in his final season, a galvanizing factor that surely makes them the favorites in the West right now, regardless of the standings. It may be MLS, but on paper, the outcome looks obvious.
Why this game will end in a draw: The last game between these teams was a tie, and there have been a couple the past few years. I'm not feeling a draw here, but with it still technically being a rivalry match, despite how lopsided it has been, it's certainly possible. As ever, it would be better than a loss, but if the Goats could grab a point, then missing out on two more could ultimately be unsatisfying.
Galaxy: James Riley (knee - listed as questionable)