Another chance to pick up maximum points against a struggling MLS side should be enough to keep the Fire’s flickering playoff hopes alive. After a surprising start to a campaign that saw Chivas USA maintain a spot in the thick of the playoff race they have fallen into the position that most expected of them to start the season.
Chivas USA has been shut out in six of their last nine matches including three consecutively. Robin Fraser’s offense which was fueled by the career best first half play of central midfielder Nick LaBrocca has cooled considerably. The starters at the other three midfield positions last weekend – Jorge Flores, Blair Gavin, and holding midfielder Simon Elliot have one goal between them all season and provide little in terms of creative play going forward. Fraser has other options in Michael Lahoud, Laurent Courtois, and Ben Zemanski but those names don’t strike fear in the heart of defenders either. This midfield match up is one the Fire should win if Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause can handle LaBrocca.
The Goats are also scrambling a bit in the back without their best defender Heath Pearce who missed the last match with a hamstring injury. Due to his absence Fraser moved Ben Zemanski to right back last weekend and the converted midfielder promptly coughed up the ball leading to DC United’s first score in a 3-0 loss. Another starter, David Junior Lopez was sent off and will miss this match leaving a likely combination of Michael Umana and Andrew Boyens in the middle with Ante Jazic on the left. Rookie Zarek Valentin is also in the mix for a starting spot in front of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Up top Juan Pablo Angel still has to be respected for his ability but he seems to be a shadow of his former self. Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno have alternated at the other forward spot. It’s not difficult to see why Chivas USA is struggling to score with the lack of playmakers at forward and midfield.
The Fire will have Gonzalo Segares back but will be missing right back Dan Gargan due to yellow card accumulation. This will necessitate some shuffling once again on Frank Klopas’ part. This time the move should be a bit clearer. Jalil Anibaba at right back should be a no brainer with Cory Gibbs in the middle next to Josip Mikulic although a start for Yamith Cuesta against his former team would not surprise me. Sean Johnson’s good form of late should also concern the struggling Chivas offense.
With Sebastian Grazzini expected to play despite a hamstring issue the midfield that looked impressive in three matches before the loss to San Jose last weekend should be back in place. Pavel Pardo in the back of the diamond with Logan Pause and Marco Pappa on the outside should be enough to win the midfield battle.
Dominic Oduro sat out the midweek friendly against CD Guadalajara and should be sufficiently recovered from an ankle issue to pair up with Patrick Nyarko again.
CHICAGO FIRE — OUT: DF Mike Banner (R ankle sprain); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain); MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); QUESTIONABLE: MF Corben Bone (R knee hyperextension)
CHIVAS USA — OUT: MF Paulo Nagamura (R foot); QUESTIONABLE: DF Heath Pearce (hamstring)
This is a match the Fire should win. A look at the rosters for each side tell me that there should be no excuses for anything less than three points given Chivas’ recent form.
Fire 2 Chivas USA 0
The Rest of the League
Portland 2 New England 1 – The Timbers are in the hunt for the last playoff spot and they are tough at home.
Toronto 1 Colorado 1 – Both teams got hammered in CCL play this week and it seems TFC is starting to show a bitter more in league play.
Columbus 0 Philadelphia 0 – This is a battle for the top of the Eastern Conference table. Both teams tend to grind things out. This could be unattractive.
Houston 2 San Jose 1 – Houston still holds one of the playoff spots but they’re fading quickly. Despite the win last weekend San Jose is still not very good.
New York 1 FC Dallas 1 – The Hoops are in some hot water without Brek Shea. Can the Red Bulls set an new all time record for draws?
Seattle 2 DC United 1 – This should be a fun match to watch with Seattle in a good stretch and DC United looking to keep a grasp on the last playoff spot.
Real Salt Lake 1 Sporting KC 0 – Another good match up but this one’s at Rio Tinto.
Los Angeles 3 Vancouver 0 – After getting jobbed in CCL play this week the Galaxy should pound the Whitecaps.