Chivas USA represents the first team the Portland Timbers will play for a second time in this 2014 season. When they played on April 12 at Providence Park a late Erick Torres goal gave the visitors a 1-1 draw. Since then, Portland has lost just once and finally figured out how to score some goals. Chivas hasn't played since May 17 while the Timbers are flying to Los Angeles directly from New York where they beat Red Bull 2-1 on Saturday. For some insight into what to expect from Chivas, we turn, as always, to Alicia Rodriguez of SB Nation's Chivas blog, The Goat Parade.
1. After a pretty rough April, Chivas USA picked up two good results earlier this month. Was it unlucky to have to wait eleven days to try to carry that momentum into a third game?
It's hard to say at this point, since this is Chivas' first bye under the new coach and with this group of players. I'd say that in general, Chivas USA haven't done well coming off byes in recent years. So we'll see. On the other hand, they've had a growing list of injuries this season, and giving players additional time to recover could prove useful, as it might for the older players on the roster who have featured regularly.
I will say that I think this is the kind of game where Goats' coach Wilmer Cabrera can show he's up to the task in preparing and motivating a team coming off a bye. Nothing would help erase fears that this group will just lamely limp along this season better than a strong performance coming out of a break, especially on the heels of four points in the previous two games.
Either way, Minda will not feature against Portland, as he picked up a suspension with his yellow card in the last match against Dallas. Minda was selected to Ecuador's 30-man roster for the World Cup, but he is an alternate. Seeing as he hasn't left to train with La Tri yet, I don't expect him to join his national team unless he is called in to replace one of the players on the 23-man squad, so he will likely remain with Chivas through the run-up and tournament itself.
Still, the Timbers won't have to worry about facing Minda, as he's out. From a CUSA perspective, that's a shame, really, since he probably had his best game of the season last time out. Cabrera has options to replace Minda (none quite up to his quality, of course). I expect Agustin Pelletieri will start as defensive midfielder, with either Marky Delgado or Carlos Alvarez playing alongside him centrally in a two-way role, or perhaps Martin Rivero for more of a pure attacking role. My inclination is that Cabrera will go for more defense to continue to help shield a shaky back four, but he's thrown some wildcards in along the way.
3. Portland's attacking players have finally started to click. Is that a worry for this Chivas back line, or are Dan Kennedy and company up to it?
I've been consistently down on this defense all season. Maybe it's self-preservation, or maybe it's looking at the reality of the situation, but Chivas USA simply don't have a good defense. Ok, perhaps that's a tad harsh to the defense, as injuries have disrupted them, they're playing a midfielder, Eric Avila, at right back (who's admittedly their most consistent defender so far), and they have what has to be the slowest center back pairing in MLS. They're probably well aware of their limitations, and to be fair, have performed quite well in some games, including the first meeting against Portland, this year.
On the other hand...Chivas have given up the same number of goals as Portland, though the Timbers have played one more match. I remain cautious about the Goats' defense, for good reason, but the last couple games have given me reason to believe they might not crater out this season.