It's an interesting slot for a match, midweek with nothing on the weekend. It's like a mini-vacation before the stretch run starts. Bonus! It's against a team that hasn't scored in over a month and is without their only forward and traded their only assist man. Chivas USA is trying to rebrand soon, but right now they are as dire as ever. Seattle Sounders FC should be able to take advantage.
Let's ask Alicia from The Goat Parade Three Questions and get ready for the game.
SaH: I don't really understand what's going on with the defense. Some guys are injured, some guys are benched, and there's a new acquisition. What's the plan when healthy and how will it work on Wednesday?
tGP: Regarding Wednesday, good question. Following Sunday's game, Wilmer Cabrera repeatedly emphasized the need to integrate the new players into the squad, that they needed time to settle in, and so forth. As a result, I expect Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to probably be back in the lineup against his old side. He played pretty well overall against the Galaxy in his first game with Chivas USA, with the very notable exception of Robbie Keane completely posterizing him en route to a pretty great individual goal. And two of Donny Toia, Akira Kaji, and Tony Lochhead will play in the fullback spots.
The big question, assuming Cabrera doesn't go all wild card vs. the Sounders, is who will pair with Hurtado at center back. Carlos Bocanegra continues to be sidelined with a concussion, so it won't be him. Andrew Jean-Baptiste has been starting at CB the past few games and is probably the best bet. Bobby Burling has now come off the bench after being sidelined with an injury and could be in line to start.
There are two main issues with Chivas' defense right now: the team has to defend about 90% of the time in games, so they never get a break, because the attack is so bad right now, and there just isn't enough talent, on the defense and on the roster overall, to actually compete with most opponents. And those are two big problems.
SaH: In a month when Chivas USA didn't score a goal they swapped away DP winger Mauro Rosales for high-priced CDM Nigel Reo-Coker. Does this make any sense?
tGP: On the field, nope. I have to imagine either there was some discontent behind the scenes, or Chivas were worried they may not be able to move Rosales on in the offseason. The fans have been pretty close to apoplectic over the trade, as it seems most of the players they like end up leaving, and that has really soured opinions of Cabrera among a growing proportion of the team's supporters.
Now, the reality is that Rosales was having a positive effect on the team's offense, and he did lead the team in assists by a wide margin. However, he was taking on a lot of defensive responsibilities in midfield to cover the considerable cracks on the backline, and that really muted his impact overall. Is it realistic to have perhaps expected a bit more consistently from him as a playmaker? Yes. But does it make sense that Chivas traded him, their only healthy playmaker, away for yet another holding/box-to-box midfielder? Nope, not even a little bit. The fact that Rosales is gone and that Erick Torres will be out of the lineup for most of the month means Chivas most likely won't score. At all.
SaH: Up until the World Cup Final the Goats looked like a potential playoff team. What's changed?
tGP: Realistically, that four-game winning streak following the World Cup break was probably the anomaly more than anything else. They got wins but played middling to poorly in most of those games, and for once, good plays and breaks went their way.
The reason the wheels fell off is because Chivas faced a good opponent playing well in D.C. United, which laid bare the reasons why the winning streak was to be taken with a grain of salt, and they also lost Bocanegra following that game. He wouldn't be the difference between wins and losses in all of those games, but losing his leadership in defense pretty much left the team without anybody capable of bossing the team around from the back, which was a big problem, and led to a lot of lineup shuffling.
The second issue is that there is literally nobody else who has proven himself capable of scoring besides Erick Torres. The last player to score besides Cubo was Leandro Barrera on July 12. Without any other scoring weapons, unsurprisingly, teams collapse on Cubo, and he hasn't been able to score recently, either, as the team is approaching a team record scoreless streak (they currently sit on 546 minutes, team record is 600). Cubo is with the Mexico national team for this game, so the team can't depend upon his brilliance anyway, and again, I'd bet pretty heavily for a Sounders shutout in this game.
GK: Dan Kennedy
D: Akira Kaji, Bobby Burling, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Donny Toia
M: Nathan Sturgis, Oswaldo Minda, Agustin Pelletieri, Leandro Barrera
F: Felix Borja, Ryan Finley
* * *
tGP: The Sounders are on a winning streak again. Do you see smooth sailing (pun intended?) from here on out to a Supporters' Shield?
SaH: It's going to be rough waters and the yacht may not be able to manage the journey. The good news is that they enter the stretch run with a small lead over the other five contenders. The bad news is that if they falter can not catch Sporting KC nor DC United. The mixed bag of the schedule is that there is a match remaining against both Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. Like an epic poem the climax of the regular season is greatly set with a home & home against the LA Galaxy to end the year. There's almost zero way those two matches don't figure into the Shield race.
Even if it is only a two team contest between Sigi and Bruce a potential six-point swing and a near certain future playoff matchup will ratchet the test to the highest level. It's two of the league's greatest coaches and greatest teams. Sounders fans will enter it with no confidence as the previous meeting was a 3-nil drubbing that could have been even worse.
tGP: Clint Dempsey recently admitted he's pretty tired at this point in the year. Do you expect to see a number of starters sitting against Chivas USA, or with a nine day break between games, will the first team be lining up?
SaH: There are two players that could most use a rest. Clint clearly could take a week-long break. He's been going since January with Fulham then Seattle then the USA at the World Cup then Seattle. It's been quite busy. Sitting him just makes sense. There is no easier match ahead and the stretch run is right around the corner.
Gonzalo Pineda could also sit of the regulars. He's not a player who uses his speed, but with either Rose or Evans able to slip in for Gonzo it makes sense. Leo Gonzalez could get rested too, but his direct replacement has been hurt lately and I don't think Sigi starts left mid Aaron Kovar for the first time in league play at his 2nd best position.
tGP: Jordan Morris is a hot topic right now following his surprise U.S. Men's National Team selection. Since he is a Sounders academy alum, you have known of him longer and probably watched him play more than just about anybody, so tell us a little about him and why he's worthy of a national team call-up before he's even turned pro.
SaH: The most important thing to know about Morris is that the reason he's not pro has nothing to do with his ability to play soccer. It has everything to do with getting into Stanford, a place one mentor told him he wasn't smart enough to go. He earned access to the West's best major university while also becoming a player that is now on the national team radar and nearly certain to go to the Olympics (he'll be a pro by then). Morris might be the best example of how youth players in America will always follow their own path rather than a simple RPG like step-level system.
Jordan is not a simple goal scorer. When with the U-18s he lead the nation in goals scored, but less frequently noted is the fact that he was also an assist man. His other forward played up a level and scored more than 20 goals as well, most of those assisted by Morris. Those assists came from cut-back passes, crosses and throughballs. Morris had just converted from a midfielder in high school (where he was the state player of the year as a junior) and had the on-ball skills that a quality youth mid is expected to have. Morris frame isn't large and he isn't fast. He'd be slightly above MLS average in both of those, but he's really a technician whether shooting or passing. If he was on the Sounders right now he would be the 3rd forward and regularly earning playing time as a wide mid beating out Neagle, Cooper and Barrett.
Here's a lot more about Morris.
tGP: (Bonus) Prediction for this game?
SaH: It has to be a mutli-goal win. Chivas isn't going to score more than a goal and Sounders FC, even without three starters (Pappa is with Guatemala right now) there are plenty of goalscorers available to Sigi.
Lineup Guess: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Yedlin; Neagle, Rose, Alonso, Evans; Cooper, Martins