CARSON, CA - JULY 07: Ben Zemanski #21 of Chivas USA reacts after missing on a scoring chance against the Vancouver Whitecaps at The Home Depot Center on July 7, 2012 in Carson, California. The game ended in a scoreless tie. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I can imagine the scene at the Home Depot Center tomorrow. Thousands of children, their hands sticky from cotton candy and soft drinks, screaming, blowing vuvuzelas, playing with handheld gaming devices, shooting spitballs at each other (at least, that's what I remember doing when I was a kid, minus the vuvuzelas) -- pretty much doing anything but watching the game on the pitch.
I can't blame them for their indifference. Chivas has the worst offense of any MLS team, and it isn't particularly close.
With 11 goals in 17 matches, they are well behind the next worst offense (Dallas, 19 in 20 matches). They have tallied more than a single goal just twice this season (once against the Portland Timbers), while having been held scoreless an MLS-worst eight times.
Perhaps the most telling set of statistics is this: Juan Pablo Angel has played in just nine of Chivas' 17 games (just six starts), and yet he leads his team in goals scored (3), shots (28), and shots on target (10).
A large part of the problem has been the lack of consistency up top in the starting lineup. Angel's six starts are good enough for second most on the team, behind Alejandro Moreno (11 starts). Until recent acquisitions Juan Agudelo and Jose Correa, each of whom has just five starts, get more used to playing in the Chivas system, those kids aren't likely to be distracted by the players on the field.
While Chivas has lacked quality and consistency among their strikers, they have been incredibly strong in other, more boring areas of the pitch. Even in recent matches in which Robin Fraser has switched to a 4-3-3 style lineup with Angel and Agudelo joining Moreno up front, their three-man midfield continues to be effective at holding possession and staunch in defense.
There aren't any superstars in the Chivas midfield, just damn good footballers. Nick LaBrocca, Oswaldo Minda, and Laurent Courtois have all held down the center midfield, while newcomer Paolo Cordozo, recently acquired from LA Galaxy in exchange for defender David Junior Lopes, has joined Ryan Smith, Ben Zemanski and Miller Bolanos sharing responsibilities on the wings.
As Timbers fans saw earlier this season, this is a dangerous group. The Timbers' continued propensity to leave space for center midfielders outside the penalty area will be no less of liability this time around. And Ryan Smith can certainly whip in those crosses from the flanks.
Defensively, Chivas continues to be one of the best teams in MLS. They have allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference with 18, second only to Sporting Kansas City league-wide. Since the addition of Danny Califf, a Piotr Nowak refugee, the Chivas back four has remained stable and resolute, with the exception of a couple of lapses.
But certainly the biggest reason for the low number of goals allowed is All Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. The Timbers have found themselves on the wrong side of some of his brilliant saves in the past, most notably a goal-bound strike from Kalif Alhassan last season. One might even call Kennedy "exciting."
All told, Chivas USA are a solid work-a-day defensive squad that controls possession well but just hasn't clicked offensively. Basically, they're the polar opposite of the team that shares their stadium.
Here's hoping none of those kids were told they'd be attending a Galaxy match.