With only 11 points in their 12 matches Chivas USA fired their coach of only a few months. The interim head coach will not be in LA until Monday and so one of their Academy coaches will be filling in for Saturday night only. It's a team not just in transition, but quite possibly burning inside a dumpster. For all the struggles the Sounders have had with meeting the high expectations of ownership and fans, Oshan makes the case in that last link that the Goats are the worst team in North America.
If there is a time to face an opponent when they fire a coach, it is when the new coach is not in town to watch the next game. Still, scouting is nearly impossible, the formation unguessable and neither side's fanbases are excited to learn the result from the 7:30 PM match (KONG 6/16).
Helping us stumble through Three Questions is Alicia from The Goat Parade (also everywhere else smart enough to hire her).
SaH: Let's assume that the three-man backline disappears and a four-man line appears. How do those role switches happen?
tGP: To be honest, it's going to be a big mystery for me as well until we see the lineups and the game itself. Although Jose Luis Real is going to be the "interim coach" this season, there's going to be an "interim interim coach" for Saturday, Chivas USA Academy director Sacha van der Most, who to my knowledge has never coached a first team professional game before. I'm sure he'll take directions from Real or whoever may be in charge at the moment, but it may also be a matter of just putting 11 players out, rolling out a ball, and seeing what happens.
It's unclear what formation Chivas could use, although it might be worth pointing out that the Academy teams play a uniform 4-3-3. Of course, if that is indeed the formation used, it is going to mean substantial changes to the lineup. The team appears to be stocked with center backs, since full backs are basically unnecessary in a 3-man back line (unless they are used as wingbacks), but I know Steve Purdy has played right back in the past in MLS, and if healthy, Walter Vilchez could possibly play left back. Still, we'll have to see if putting an additional defender really makes a difference, or if it is more a matter of who is actually playing.
SaH: In light of the coaching change the leadership will have to come from a player or two. Who can rally the team?
tGP: As you noted in an article, Dan Kennedy made the closest approximation a soccer player can to winning a game singlehandedly this week, as he made several key saves and scored a penalty, which turned out to be the winning goal, in the Open Cup. He was the captain under Chelís, and that could change but I don't think it ought to, and he's the first source of leadership on this squad.
Beyond that, the players are almost all new to the squad, within the last two years or so. Jorge Villafana is the longest-tenured player, but he's a shy person and I don't think he's rallying the metaphorical troops. Considering their relative clout, as players from Chivas de Guadalajara who have played minutes in top-flight Mexican soccer, I think Mario de Luna and Edgar Mejia may be de facto leaders, but who knows? They might just as easily switch off and go through the motions.
SaH: Is love for Dan Kennedy the new MLS hipster sign, or should everyone really and truly love his quality?
this was poor attempt at humor and just wanting her to talk about Kennedy
tGP: Is this really a question? He's literally been the best player on his team since 2011. Although most MLS fanbases are partial to their team's goalkeeper, I think maybe all but two or three teams would jump at the chance to acquire Kennedy, meaning he's not just great on a bad team, but he's got the goods overall. His consistency since returning from major injuries a few years ago has been very impressive, and while he has many years ahead of him in his career (well, I suppose as long as he doesn't pull a Barry Sanders) it's a damn shame that he hasn't gotten a look from the U.S. National Team. Sure, it would be hard to beat Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, but compared to the MLS 'keepers getting the nod the past few years, Kennedy deserves a look, despite his "advanced" age.
And hey, when a team is bad, when the roster turns over every year, and when there one player who rises above the fray and leads by example week after week, of course his quality should celebrated. Nothing trendy about DK love.
Daniel Antunez (knee), everything else is a guess until tomorrow, really.
Shot in the dark:
tGP: The Sounders struggled coming out of the gate, and have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season. They struggled with injuries early in the season, but even with most of the team back and available, the Sounders appear to be missing a player or two who could get the team on a regular run. Am I reading this right? And is there somebody on the roster who can indeed get the group going for a sustained period?
SaH: Seattle has struggled through injuries and call-ups. The recent six match unbeaten run they still dealt with those things, but were both fortunate and clicking. Part of that was the quality of Servando Carrasco filling in for Osvaldo Alonso. Lamar Neagle filled in well (more on him later). They played a kind of asymmetric midfield the improved the defense and didn't hurt the offense. Obafemi Martins is now starting. He's not the captain, but he's the Sounders' attempt at a Keane type. He's got to do it as a finishing only forward. But he's been through things. He was on a crappy Birmingham City team that rallied to win the League Cup in the same season they were relegated.
Seattle needs to do kind of the opposite and get on a run by any means necessary. They will be without Johnson, Brad Evans, Shalrie Joseph and Steve Zakuani this weekend. Depth will continue to be tested. Rather than lay a St. Petersburg sized egg they need to do like they did against Dallas and San Jose. Eight goals for and only two against. This is a team capable of being great. They looked it for a bit. They need to act like it again.
tGP: This is the first year in some time when Seattle won't have to deal with fixture congestion through the latter two-thirds of the season. Although I can imagine there is disappointment regarding the U.S. Open Cup and Champions League, is this a blessing in disguise for a team hoping to really make a run at MLS Cup?
SaH: One can only hope. Otherwise it is going to suck even worse. Last year was a good year, but there were no trophies. A mediocre year with no trophies will be even harder to take. But this is the only spin that can be offered. Sigi's offering it. Sounder at Heart commenters are clinging to it. It probably has no relationship with reality. It just sucks to be out of the running for two non-MLS trophies already. There's no way to fix that. There's two major trophies left. Seattle is nearly out of the Supporters' Shield already. Focus is a funny thing, but it isn't the answer to every failure by a team.
tGP: With Eddie Johnson currently away from the team with the USMNT, which player or players are filling the void in the attack?
SaH: The forwards will be Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle. It means more of a speed based attack and a reduction of effectiveness on crosses and set-plays, but those two can still finish. Oba's goals so far are mainly poached, but he's a pretty poacher if that makes sense. Neagle earned his starts and is burst out with strong performances and finishing back during that three match winning streak that feels like months ago. This is probably the best year to lose a player of EJ's quality as Neagle is at the least a quality third forward.
tGP: Prediction for this match?
SaH: It's either going to be a blow out one way or the other. The Goats have that whole rally together after the coach got fired thing and the Sounders have that whole "crap we've only got one chance left" thing. It's a cowardly answer, but the confidence disappeared this week.