Sounders look to best Chivas USA for second time this season

The California team is in town to take on the Sounders at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. PT.

Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA
July 28, 2013, 8 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; Univision Deportes Network (Spanish); La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

When a team makes a mid-season coaching change, as Seattle’s next opponent Chivas USA did in May, many more changes usually follow.

At Chivas, that has meant a new coaching philosophy under Jose Luis Real that has Chivas playing in a 4-5-1 formation as opposed to the 3-5-2 they played in the short-lived regime of Jose Luis Sanchez Sola. They have also made nine player transactions, four players coming in with five players going out.

It’s all part of a season of sweeping change for Chivas USA that will make the team look quite unfamiliar to Sounders FC fans on Sunday.

The last time Sounders FC hosted Chivas USA at CenturyLink Field on September 9, 2012, Eddie Johnson scored a late goal to lift the team to a 2-1 win over the visitors. And while Johnson is away on international duty with the U.S. National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on Sunday against Panama, the Chivas side that visited Seattle that day will look drastically different to fans in the stands. Only two players – Dan Kennedy and Jorge Villafana - remain on the roster for Chivas USA.

Chivas has even made changes since the last time the two teams met on June 1, bringing in two young prospects on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara in forward Erick Torres and defender Jaime Frias. While Torres has already made an impact, scoring a goal in a 1-0 win over Toronto FC last week, Frias has yet to make his debut.

The biggest addition has come in defender Carlos Bocanegra, though.

The 34-year-old UCLA product is a veteran of nine seasons in Europe at Fulham in England, Rennes in France, Rangers in Scotland and Racing Santander in Spain, in addition to his four seasons with the Chicago Fire from 2000-2003. He also was recently captain of the U.S. National Team and has 110 caps for the Stars and Stripes.

“He gives them an experienced centerback,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid, who coached Bocanegra at UCLA. “He’s somebody who can help direct others that are playing back there with him. He’s also good in the air and dangerous on set pieces, so we have to be aware of him.”

Bocanegra fits with the playing style implemented by Real since he took over coaching duties and the team has seen an improvement, though slight, in the standings. Although their victory over Toronto FC ended a 14-match winless streak, the team had been able to convert some of their losses to draws in recent weeks, going 1-1-3 in their last five games. After the seven straight losses that preceded that, they have shown a marked improvement in earning six points over five matches.

“They’ve really put a lot of emphasis on their defending. They’ve really tried to keep it tight in the back and defend well,” Schmid said. “They get nine guys behind the ball. Keeping a game close and defending well has been a big emphasis in their game now.”

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