Sunday's game is nationally televised on Univision Deportes Network as well as KONG 6/16 at 8 PM or you can go to the game. Seattle Sounders FC need to start their annual second half run. Chivas USA should provide that opportunity as their recent improvements bring them up to a more dangerous level, but not one that should challenge the Sounders. Plus they still have this guy;
Guiding us through the changes with the Goats since the 2-nil win in June is Alicia from The Goat Parade.
SaH: When last we chatted Chivas USA was in interim coach land. They've now discovered their third coach on the year. What's changed about the shape and style of the club?
tGP: Well, under Jose Luis Real Chivas USA look to be a team that has a defensive formation that fits MLS demands, and tactics that have kept the team in matches longer than previously. It's all relative, since Chivas only just won their first league match since March, but the team has looked better in pretty much every game since Real took over, and while Chivas' "better" may be other teams' "still pretty bad" it's better than no improvement, or getting worse, which was how the previous three months went.
Specifically, Chivas now use four defenders on the backline, and while they still could stand to sort out the full back issue, all of the players back there have been doing pretty well in the adjustments midseason. Real is also using a lone striker up top more often than not, which I'm not a fan of, but I understand the rationale behind prioritizing defense. The addition of Mexican forward Erick Torres, who scored the winner in his debut for CUSA, may help the scoring pick up, something the team still desperately needs. In some respects, this team is in many respects back to Robin Fraser's style of play, which was boring and largely ineffective. Chivas have gotten results lately, and at this point, I think getting points is better than running around the field like a U-6 team, which is sometimes what Chelís' team looked like.
SaH: A couple players are new as well. What have the additions of Farfan, Torres and Bocanegra meant to squad quality?
tGP: Well, on Farfan, meh. I was hoping he could pull an Eric Avila, where maybe he'd get more freedom to play his natural style, and blossom into a better player, but I'm not impressed by him other than his versatility, which is something every team needs, I suppose.
The main additions have been the aforementioned Torres, who has considerable potential and could be legitimately good (he's only on a loan, so if he is good, he'll go straight back to Chivas de Guadalajara to re-launch his career there), and Bocanegra. Both of them have only played one match for the Goats, July 17 against Toronto FC, but both were integral to the victory. Of course, one can say that it was against TFC, so what? That's fair, but Chivas played down a man for over an hour, and Torres scored the winner near the end of the match, while Bocanegra put out fires while TFC were desperate for a goal of their own, so I still think it's a valid performance. That's clearly a tiny sample size, but I can tell you morale among the fans is up, and Cubo and Boca are a big reason for that.
SaH: Is there a record for the least amount of forwards in an 18 on the year? Will the Goats beat it?
If there was an easy way for me to search for that info, I'd be all over it, but let's say that Chivas at least take the cake in 2013. Although they have added Torres and Homegrown signing Caleb Calvert in recent weeks, they were basically down to one true central forward for quite some time, as Jose Correa was trotted out again and again despite being completely ineffective (he finally scored this season a couple games back). Julio Morales was at the U-20 World Cup at the time, although he's back now too, and Tristan Bowen and Jose Manuel Rivera may be able to play up top but both play or prefer to play on the wing and in midfield, respectively.
That means there still isn't depth, really, but hopefully Torres goes on a tear and I don't have to keep gnashing my teeth about the dearth of strikers on the roster.
Significant Absences (injury, call up, suspension)
Eric Avila: Suspended;
Injuries - hard to say, since Chivas didn't play last weekend and won't release new info until tomorrow.
GK: Dan Kennedy
D: Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna, Carlos Bocanegra, Walter Vilchez
M: Tristan Bowen, Edgar Mejia, Carlos Alvarez, Gabriel Farfan, Jorge Villafana
F: Cubo Torres
tGP: Early on, Seattle's problem was that they were injured and players were getting called up all the time. Now, Seattle's problem is that they are injured and players are called up. Have you noticed changes in the attitude and/or form of the team despite the ongoing problems?
SaH: The inconsistency of lineup has started to frustrate Sigi a little bit. The biggest problem facing the Sounders is finishing and then probably creation. His wing based play was destroyed when Zakuani got injured, Caskey got injured, Martinez was called up and then gave up (kind a) and Rosales is aging. The forwards feature two great players (Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson) that never play together with a third who works really hard and is a starting quality MLS guy, but not capable of the greatness the other two are (people at SaH will hate that I say this).
But the inconsistent lineups have hurt things like defensive assignments on set-plays and the more free flowing attack that Seattle would like to have. Every week the finger points at someone else. There isn't a simple solution. Even if the Sounders had a DP slot open they couldn't just sign Player X and get better, because Player X would have to be able to play everywhere.
tGP: So with all the formation juggling, who has emerged to take advantage of playing time?
SaH: The most recent success story is Servando Carrasco. More famous as "Alex Morgan's boyfriend" he's turned into a good destroyer and decent passer. Carrasco is the odd player who passes better over long distances than middle range. He also has a good direct kick that should see more time as Seattle's kick taking situation is still transitioning to the post-Montero world. When he plays alongside Alonso (as expected Sunday) Seattle runs a double pivot from the bucket 4-4-2. Both will get forward either to act as a conduit to switch angle of attack or slam a shot in from distance.
tGP: There's plenty of time left in the season, of course, but are Sounders fans starting to use the P-word (panic) regarding this campaign?
SaH: I want to say no, but yes. While #FireSigi and #SigiOut aren't common at Sounder At Heart yet they are picking up steam. It would be odd to blame him for Gspurning's high wrist sprain, or Zakuani's sports hernia, or Oba's bruised calf, or Joseph's continual calf issues but people here expect more than average MLS soccer. The bar is high enough that being an decent side that just misses or just makes the MLS Cup Playoffs is a failure. That's a bar that only Bruce Arena may be able to pass, but that's the bar here. The forty thousand crowd results in a bit of entitlement. The success from day one adds more. A fan base young to MLS sometimes fails to understand that what the Sounders have done is impressive both on and off the field. Panic is setting in and it won't go away until Seattle is a Playoff lock.
tGP: Prediction for this match?
SaH: Three-one open and flowing, this should be a fun match to watch. Seattle has enough weaknesses that Chivas USA can score, but they also have a lineup that is approaching full health so the goals will come.
Weber; Gonzalez, Traore, Scott, Yedlin; Burch, Carrasco, Alonso, Evans; Neagle, Martins