Chivas USA isn't doing a whole lot to dispel the notion that they're not much more than just "the other team in Los Angeles". Their last few seasons have been disastrous and their record at home this year is an unenviable 0-4-0. Three of those four losses (Houston, Vancouver, Sporting KC, and Philadelphia) have come against Eastern Conference opposition.
The most important player on the squad could be goalkeeper Dan Kennedy whose heroics have kept them in just about every match. Six of their eight games this season have ended in a 1-0 result and Kennedy has been the main factor particularly in a 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake on March 24. Chivas will likely drop back multiple defenders against the Fire's pace up top so this should be a tight one.
Robin Fraser's team will struggle to score but they're composed in back, starting the same back line in all eight matches this season. Ante Jazic, Heath Pearce, Raushawn McKenzie, and James Riley from left to right form a pretty solid group.
Fraser leans toward a five man-midfield which should also limit space for Fire attackers and make breaking them down difficult. Oswaldo Minda has played well from the deep lying role with Paolo Cardozo and Nick LaBrocca the likely starters in front of him in the middle. LaBrocca had a break out year of sorts in 2011 but has been relatively quiet so far in 2012. The starting outside players are harder to project. Fraser has started Alejandro Moreno in midfield but his pace is well below that of a useful wing player. Ryan Smith, Ben Zemanski, Miller Bolanos, and Laurent Courtois have all started at some point this year but none of those names should strike fear into any back line. Zemanski is recovering from a knee sprain and should be available.
Juan Pablo Angel returned to the first eleven last weekend after recovering from an injury of his own but has yet to show the form that he seemed to recapture in a goal scoring spree late last season after coming over to Chivas from the Los Angeles Galaxy. With either Moreno or Angel up top the Goats don't have much pace and should be a decent match up for the Fire's back line although the visitor's will have another change at center back in this match. The club recently signed 19 year old Colombian striker Jose Correa but it's not likely he's more than a reserve in this match.
Rookie Austin Berry will make his MLS regular season debut along side veteran Arne Friedrich while Jalil Anibaba serves a one game suspension for "doing something" that was apparently red card worthy in the Seattle game. Gonzalo Segares and Dan Gargan are back on the outside this weekend. Frank Klopas also seems to be sticking with Sean Johnson in goal for now.
Marco Pappa has strung together two good performances. An energized effort against Houston didn't produce a score but his substitution into the Seattle match changed the tone of the contest. Pappa will certainly be teamed with the usual combination of Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, and Sebastian Grazzini to complete the Fire midfield. Chivas will attempt to slow things down and limit the spaces available for Grazzini to move the ball forward while possibly hoping to find Angel on a set piece or broken play.
Chris Rolfe will miss a third straight match while recovering from an ankle injury so the strike duo of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro will continue start for at least another match. It will be difficult to get behind the Chivas defense since they are notoriously conservative already.
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); MF Steven Kinney (R posterior tibialis tendinitis); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Rolfe (L ankle sprain)
CHIVAS USA -- OUT: MF Marvin Iraheta (L knee ACL); PROBABLE: MF Ben Zemanski (R knee MCL sprain)
This one could be a bit boring if Fraser decides to bunker and wait for a chance in leiu of offering any space to roam and counter to the speed of Fire attackers. Friedrich and Berry haven't had much time to gel together (they teamed up against Louisville in a friendly) but Chivas' style of play should suit their strengths. If LaBrocca and Angel are effectively marked, Chivas has little other options going forward. CUSA has scored only four times in eight matches. Cross country travel in MLS should not be underestimated but the Fire are a better side than Chivas USA at the moment.
Fire 1 Chivas USA 0