The last time the Portland Timbers visited Chivas USA at the StubHub Center, a 1-1 draw was the result with Diego Valeri coming on at half-time and securing a point for the visitors. With only one game left this season, the Timbers will need all three points to finish atop the Western Conference. We reached back out to SB Nation's Chivas USA blog, The Goat Parade, for answers to a few questions about what stands in the way of Portland's finishing the season on top of the West. Matt Hoffman again obliged, which we appreciate as always.
1. With two games in such quick succession, how tired will Chivas USA be and how much fight is left now that there is just this one game left before the offseason?
That's the question we were openly asking heading into the midweek fixture against Real Salt Lake. The team hadn't played in 17 days and that was of course the utterly, humiliating, abysmal, quite bad 5-0 loss in the LA Derby. The Goats made it interesting on Wednesday and put in one of their best efforts of the year.
Still the fact that it was knotted at 0-0 at halftime was more a testament to an almost uninterested RSL skylarking through the motions. RSL mounted several charges that fizzled either by poorly timed or an errant pass such as Ned Grabavoy's literally tapping the ball to a Chivas defender.
The narrative we've been fed is that the Chivas players-and not just the seven players on loan from Chivas Guadalajara-are showcasing their skills for the mothership. In other words the players, Carlos Bocanegra obviously excepted, are motivated regardless of the team's fortunes.
Like everything we hear from Chivas brass, I can't quite say I believe this. If this is indeed true than Robbie Keane's final goal on October 6th--truly one of the most lackadaisical defensive efforts I can ever recalled seeing-is even more indefensible. In so many ways...
2. Erick Torres was on quite a scoring pace earlier this fall but has cooled off recently. Is there something specific the Timbers can do to continue that dry spell? Or is the problem Cubbo not opposing defenses?
El Cubo is a marked man and, not surprisingly, defenders go out of their way to mete some physicality on the sleight of frame striker. He showed great aplomb scoring seven goals in his first nine matches, but Wednesday marked his six consecutive game without a goal. Not coincidentally the team is 0-1-5 during his drought.
I don't think it's that teams have figured out Cubo per se. Moreover, and like so many of Chivas's problems, it's self-inflicted.
The club has recently taken a very cynical approach, a 4-2-3-0-1, i.e. clog your half of the field and place a marooned Torres alone up top. The set-up stymies Torres who needs to have someone up top alongside him to draw defenders, make runs into the box, etc.
That player had been Julio Morales. But until coming on as late substitute against RSL-and scoring a goal-Morales hadn't seen any first team action since September 8th, which incidentally was the last time Torres scored.
3. Apart from Torres, who is the biggest threat to Portland's recapturing of first place in the West?
That's a head scratcher. I'm reluctant to not just declare the collective bus that the team will attempt to park in their third of the field. However you asked for a player and usually that would be goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Kennedy, again, has tallied an impressive save tally. However the team's captain missed the RSL match with lower abdominal strain and his status is uncertain for Saturday.
If Julio Morales returns to the lineup, then my guess would be either Morales or winger Bryan de la Fuente. De la Fuente is a former Chivas USA product who toiled in Liga Mx for a few years before returning to the club this summer. In the ten games he's scored two goals-which places him third among Chivas USA players. One of which was against the Timbers.
Notable injuries: Out: F Tristan Bowen, D Marco Delgado, M Gabriel Farfan, D Steve Purdy. Questionable: Dan Kennedy, Oswaldo Minda. Suspended: None
Projected lineup: Tim Melia, Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna, Carlos Bocanegra ©, Jamie Frias, Edgar Mejia, Eric Avila, Carlos Alvarez, Bryan de la Fuente, Julio Morales, Eric Torres