Coming off the first Cascadia Cup win of the season, Seattle Sounders FC travels to Los Angeles to take on Chivas USA for the second meeting this season. The match kicks off a stretch of five of six away games over all competitions.
Sounders FC extended its unbeaten streak against Chivas to six games (2-0-4) with a 1-1 road draw on May 26 and Seattle also ousted Chivas from the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in 2010 and 2012. The sides will meet for the third and final time on September 8 in Seattle's next home match.
Saturday’s matchup is crucial to the playoff hopes of both teams as they enter the final stretch of the regular season. Seattle is battling to remain one of the top three teams in the West and potentially contend for the Supporters’ Shield while Chivas, 10 points out of the fifth and final playoff spot, hopes to get back into the postseason hunt. And both teams have a great opportunity to pocket more points in the final third of the season as Seattle (10 games remaining) and Chivas (12) have the most games remaining in MLS.
“Chivas is a hard team to prepare for…because they are a team that’s getting to that point now where they have got to be desperate for points,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “They want to get into the playoff hunt. They’ve got games in hand but unless you turn those games in hand into points you’re not going to get into that race that you want to be in.”
Despite scoring the fewest goals in MLS (15), Chivas has been able to keep pace with their defense, allowing just 26 goals for a 1.18 goals against average (sixth in MLS). The struggle to score has prompted head coach Robin Fraser to test a handful of attacking combinations. With the likes of Juan Pablo Angel, Alejandro Moreno, Juan Agudelo, Jose Correa and Casey Townsend, Fraser has plenty of options to choose from.
“They’ve just changed their lineup around an awful lot,” said Schmid. “It’s Zemanski, it’s Agudelo, it’s Moreno, it’s Angel, it’s Courtois, it’s Smith before he was injured, it’s LaBrocca. There’s a bunch of players that can play there and it seems every game there’s a few changes. It’s a little bit tougher to prepare because you’re not sure what lineup they are going to come with.”
Chivas has also added one of the league’s top midfielders in Shalrie Joseph, who joined the Goats earlier this month after 10 standout seasons with the Revs. Defenders Danny Califf and former Sounder James Riley shore up the backline, and Dan Kennedy has remained strong in net, starting all 22 matches.
“Obviously with the addition of Shalrie Joseph, he’s in their lineup. Their back four has been reasonably consistent,” said Schmid.
Chivas’ struggle to score has made winning at home difficult. With just three wins and six goals in 12 home matches, the Goats have rarely been able to break down visiting defenses when they sit back and play conservative.
“Offensively, whether they have been home or away, they haven’t scored a lot of goals. So now breaking down a team that has come in with a little more of a conservative game plan maybe becomes more difficult for them,” said Schmid.
Saturday’s match not only affects the playoff standings, but Seattle supporters could also see the debut of newest Sounder Mario Martinez, who joined the team last week on loan from Real Espana after finishing international duties at the 2012 London Olympics. Martinez played over 60 minutes in Seattle’s reserve game last Sunday and has participated in full training sessions the entire week.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The match will be televised on KING 5 with Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller calling the action, and can also be heard on 97.3 KIRO FM. The match can also be heard live in Spanish on La Gran D 99.3 FM.