Saturday's 7:30 PM match between the aspiring Seattle Sounders and struggling Goats features one of the hottest teams in MLS and a team that is bewildering. Despite several name brand players on offense Chivas USA has 9 fewer goals than the next worst in the league. If it wasn't for Dan Kennedy and the strong defense there would be no chance for the other SoCal team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Even then their chances aren't strong. They need to start a run and they need to start it now if they are to return to the second season because they are running out of games against the Timbers. Previewing the match is Alicia from The Goat Parade to help you be ready whether you watch on KING5 or live at the Home Depot Center.
SaH: Chivas is struggling to earn results at home. Is there a particular reason?
tGP: If there was an easy answer, I'm sure we would have noticed adjustments by now. Earlier this season, Alejandro Moreno was quoted as saying the fans weren't supporting the team enough, and the backlash he got from that meant he had to consider his answer a bit more. We all know attendance could be better at home games, but the quality of play on the field makes it clear that the fans are probably not the responsible party for the team's problems at home. One problem has been the team's ability to return from a bye, as they've lost by two or more goals three times in the league this season, and twice they've played at home when coming off a bye and gotten blown out.
But the biggest explanation is that it appears to be in the players' heads. Just like their persistent trouble scoring (more on that below) they seem to believe they will struggle more at home, and they tend to perform down to expectations. Rumors continue to persist that this is Chivas' last season playing home games at the Home Depot Center, so hopefully the change of scenery will help, as long as the rumors are true of course.
SaH: There hasn't been a decent team with such difficulty scoring. Health is one factor, is it the only one?
tGP: You're right in that injury troubles have hampered the team up top this season, with Juan Pablo Angel, Juan Agudelo, and Jose Correa all missing multiple games in a row for injury. But that isn't the main reason for the scoring difficulties, as those three players have played plenty of games this year in which Chivas has been shut out. Word out of training is that the team has developed a psychological block in scoring, which is never something a supporter wants to hear. Tactically, I think the issue, besides having the yips perhaps, is that the forwards simply don't get enough service in the attacking third on a consistent basis. The team desperately needs a playmaker in the midfield, and frankly I think Chivas are only a player or two away from being a legitimately good team in the league. But the fact that the team has little fluidity in the attacking third and fail to set up chances for the talented forward corps to exploit, means that the scoring woes are approaching MLS-record levels.
SaH: Talk about Dan Kennedy because he deserves it.
tGP: He certainly does. My contention this season has been that Kennedy is definitely a Top 3 goalkeeper in MLS. The more I consider it, the more I think he has to be considered the best. What's interesting is that Kennedy is so unflappable that I've started noticing his flaws, but they are minor enough that he never gets caught on them. He's been directly responsible for one goal all season, when his distribution was sloppy, and on the other side of the balance sheet he's bailed out his teammates numerous times with remarkable saves. That he occasionally gives up three or four goals in a game and is still named to the league's team of the week (as he was two weeks ago in a terrible loss to the Galaxy) indicates the quality and level of respect he's finally earning.
I think he's national team caliber, and I'm not the type to go overboard in lobbying for a player on my team when he doesn't deserve it, but Kennedy needs a shot. I don't care that he's 30, he is simply better than younger MLS goalkeepers and he could still have another 10 years ahead of him in his career, so why punish him for his age? Still, Jurgen Klinsmann has continued to overlook him for the national team, and in my opinion, that's a damn shame.
I wrote an article about this issue a few days back. I can attempt to guess, but it will be wrong, guaranteed.
DF: Riley, Califf, Valencia, Jazic
MF: LaBrocca, Minda, Joseph, Courtois, Agudelo
* * *
tGP: The Sounders have positioned themselves well in the standings to this point, as they are currently sitting 3rd in the Western Conference. Is there a goal to make a push to move up even higher or even perhaps make a run for the Supporter's Shield? Or is the team trying to work out the kinks ahead of the playoffs?
SaH: With a long stated goal of making the Club World Cup the Sounders will always target every way to make the CONCACAF Champions League. This matters because as RSL qualified for the CCL by finishing third it wouldn't be too much of a surprise if the this year's third place team qualified (if San Jose wins the SS and either of they or KC make the MLS Cup Final - if BOTH do it then the 4th place team gets in too). Still, with the way Sigi Schmid rotates players they are clearly working towards an Ideal XI for the MLS Cup Playoffs. This will be helped by a relatively easy CCL group and an October schedule that is rather soft. With the games in hand on RSL and the 'Quakes the Sounders should push to finish as high as possible. More home field games and a shot at hosting a home MLS Cup makes the final standings quite important.
tGP: Eddie Johnson has been playing very well for Seattle, and Fredy Montero has been very good at coming off the bench and scoring lately. Is the attack better running through one of the pair this season, and is Montero perhaps more effective as a super sub?
SaH: The attack is going to be much more diverse now than at any point in Sounders FC's MLS history. The addition of Christian Tiffert means that the final pass will be coming from more angles. This means that Montero can play a bit higher and be a bit less of an assist man (he's a double-double threat every year). When Rosales plays in the hole and Montero starts on the bench Seattle either gives up the right wing one time crosses, or they leave Johnson by himself with no one in the box. The best lineup will have Montero in it from the start, because every player can do what they are best at doing.
tGP: Chivas were rumored to be looking at new Sounder Mario Martinez last year, but they obviously did not sign him. What do you expect from Martinez, and how will he fit in the lineup? And do you expect to see him in the lineup against Chivas?
SaH: The Martinez signing gave me reason to watch every Honduras game in the Olympics. He's a very role adaptable player who excels in a band of three or four with a defensive mid behind him. Good news for Martinez, he has one in Seattle, and in some cases he'll have two. There is an opportunity for him on the left wing, but his flexibility combined with the skill set of Rosales, Tiffert and Montero Seattle's formation might become more like a 4-1-4-1 with that band of four having different players popping up in new spaces throughout the match.
Projected Lineup: Gspurning; Gonzalez, Ianni, Parke, Johansson; Alonso; Martinez, Tiffert, Rosales; Montero, Johnson