Most of the excitement around Chivas USA is their change in leadership and their impending sale to a new investor. It ignores some pretty interesting things that the Goats have going on the field. Mauro Rosales and Cubo Torres are good players in MLS. Carlos Bocanegra and Dan Kennedy are great defensive pieces surrounded by others that struggle from stopping opportunities.
This third of three-straight road matches should be another chance at three points and a seven point road trip.
Alicia from The Goat Parade answers Three Questions to get you ready for your Saturday viewing.
SaH: The Goats don't have a shutout yet and will be without starting CB Eriq Zavaleta. How will they try to slow down Seattle's attack?
tGP: While Zavaleta will be out, the timing should line up perfectly for the Seattle match as Bobby Burling should be able to return to the starting lineup after dealing with an injury. Although I still have considerable doubts about Chivas' defense, with the exception of their two losses, when they allowed three goals in each game, they have been pretty solid as far as conceding goals, giving up five in the other four matches. This, despite playing a converted attacking midfielder, Eric Avila, at right back, playing a center back, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, at left back the last two games with regular starter Tony Lochhead out injured, and Zavaleta getting his first MLS starts the past four games alongside an aging Carlos Bocanegra.
Clean sheets have been hard to come by for Chivas USA for quite some time, and I don't think this team can really bank on posting shutouts. Instead, the Sounders have shown they are able to give up a fair number of goals themselves. I don't think Chivas can talk about winning through a shootout with the Sounders, but I do think they can stay in the game and push on if they end up behind.
SaH: Mauro's the key to wide play on the right. Who is powering the left sided build-up? Is the wide play used without switching?
tGP: Leandro Barrera, another Argentine, has mostly played on the left side of midfield this season, and he's been quite effective as well. A traditional winger, Barrera has shown an ability to not only stay wide and send in good crosses, but he can also pinch in and take on defenders or link up with his teammates as well. With Rosales positioned as Chivas' playmaker out wide, the team's shape can be unbalanced, but as Seattle fans know very well, you can still have an effective attack even if the playmaker is deployed out wide.
With Rosales and Barrera locking down starting spots in Chivas' midfield, it's actually surprising that there are still newcomers who have yet to be fully integrated into the side. Adolfo Bautista, better known as Bofo, has played sparingly but has shown a penchant for a terrific pass despite being unable to run at all. Bigger mysteries are English striker Luke Moore, who was signed with some fanfare but has looked flat so far, and the newest addition, former Colorado Rapids midfielder Martin Rivero, who has played very well in the past in MLS but has also had considerable injury problems. If any of these three can prove to be regular contributors, that should make Chivas even more dynamic in the attack, and hopefully that much more competitive.
SaH: Just talk to us about Torres
tGP: The game on Saturday will pit the two leading scorers in MLS at the moment against each other, though I doubt there will be much focus on it (and shouldn't there be? Both teams have had some shaky games defensively -- could truly be a duel). Erick Torres has been fantastic to start the season, and he's shown an ability to score both penalties (a problem for Chivas last year before his arrival) and the run of play. Like Dan Kennedy, I'd argue that Torres should be getting a lot more attention for his play, but since he's with the Goats he'll continue to fly under the radar, and that's too bad. People talk about how MLS should go after Liga MX players, but that's exactly what happened with Cubo, and he's showing his class on a regular basis, quickly writing his name into club lore. This team hasn't had an elite scorer for years, and the difference is clear. The only issue is that Chivas need to be able to count on other players to score, too, and that's something that they need to work on as the season progresses.
Significant absences: Thomas McNamara (knee), Tony Lochhead (hamstring)
Projected lineup: Dan Kennedy; Eric Avila, Bobby Burling, Carlos Bocanegra, Andrew Jean-Baptiste; Mauro Rosales, Agustin Pelletieri, Marky Delgado, Carlos Alvarez, Leandro Barrera; Erick Torres
tGP: So, Clint Dempsey has started scoring, and now it seems he can't stop. What's changed for the DP in recent weeks?
SaH: Last Fall he played really well, but didn't score. His talent was clear. Boxsore things just didn't happen for him. He had some injuries and re-adjusting to the travel demands of MLS put him just a touch off as well. Then he struggled mightily at awful Fulham. The failures there were real and clouded the nation's impression of what happened in 2013. A two-month slump converted to a narrative about how he was finished.
When he came back from Fulham things were clearly different. Clint's energy level was up and he had a full bill of health. He had his classic swagger and attitude (probably cost him two games) and he scored goals - beautiful goals. Working dynamically with Obafemi Martins Dempsey is free to score from range or in the six. Gone as well is the idea that Dempsey needs to be a central creator. He is free to roam and flash into space. He works a 1-2 as well as anyone this league has seen in its short history.
So what's changed? He's not at Fulham and he's still the Captain of our ship.
tGP: The Sounders made some significant changes to their defense, to mixed results. What has gone right, and what hasn't?
SaH: Like most teams the goals scored against Seattle can easily be pushed aside as anomalies. There were two penalties, both for silly fouls that weren't necessary. Three of Portland's goals against were up for Goal of the Week with two of those being in a space that is normally covered but was left open. Toronto's two goals against were due to a mistaken pass and a bad challenge from Pappa. The list goes on.
What's working is that teams are not going to win the ball in the air against the centerbacks. Chad Marshall alone assure that. Traore is just a bonus. There's also great recovery speed from Yedlin, which is being used a bit too much lately. Because what's not working is the coverage of two spaces - the space between Marshall/Traore & Alonso and the space behind Yedlin. Those are real issues that good teams are exploiting.
tGP: Many saw the Sounders acquisition of Marco Pappa as a coup, but his impact has been minimal. Why is that?
SaH: The aforementioned mistakes against Toronto sent Pappa to Reserve team purgatory. Only recently has he earned his way back to the pitch as a sub. His errors seem to be related to an unfamiliarity with playing (considering how little he played the last two years that may not be a surprise). He's relearning the league and taking him a bit of time to do so. The issues he has seem to be with the pace of play. If his only role is as an impact sub rather than a starter the last two matches show that he will be one of the greatest impact starters of all time. With Pappa on the pitch as a sub against Portland and Dallas Sounders FC has a +4 goal differential and went from losing both games to taking four points on the road.
tGP: (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
SaH: I think Seattle is good for two to four goals while Chivas USA only gets one to three. This is a way of me saying a few things. I hate predictions. I think lots of goals will be scored. I think Sounders FC are the favorites. Do not play a defensive player on either side in this week's fantasy team (I have Yedlin and Kennedy because I'm dumb).
Significant Absences: Evans is still recovering from a calf bruise but may return. Rose is recovering from a hamstring issue and may return.
Gspurning FREI; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Yedlin; Pineda, Alonso; Neagle, Dempsey, Cooper; Martins