Well if you simply look at the matches between these two teams you see that Chivas USA hold a 9-5-2 edge over Real Salt Lake, and even in Salt Lake City the edge would have to go to Chivas who have a 2-3-3 record here. Then there is recent history, if you look at the last three years the advantage goes to RSL, in 2008 the teams played 5 times (3 regular season and 2 playoff matches) and they ended 2-2-1 but RSL got the edge in the playoffs. In 2009 each team won once but RSL was able to get a 4-0 win at home, after losing in LA 1-0. It was last year that RSL finally really won a season series with Chivas a 2-1 win for RSL at the Home Depot Center followed by a 1-1 draw at home.
However none of that history will really matter, as there are only two players on the current Chivas USA roster that have scored against RSL while with Chivas. Paulo Nagamur has 2 goals in 16 matches against RSL and Justin Braun has a single goal in the 5 times he has faced Chivas USA. RSL has 4 players who have scored against Chivas while wearing the Claret and Cobalt, led by Andy Williams who has 3 goals and 2 assists, Fabian Espindola 2 goals and 2 assists, Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert each have a goal in the series.
The two teams have taken different paths in 2011, RSL started with 4 straight wins in MLS action, while Chivas was winless in their first 5 matches. Last weekend however Chivas got their second straight win, while RSL was handed their first loss of the MLS season.
after the jump the Injuries, Key Match Ups, Wildcards, and my pick for the match
Both sides are dealing with some injury issues:
Chivas USA -OUT: FW Tristan Bowen (L ankle sprain); MF Blair Gavin (L hamstring strain); DF Seth Owusu (R knee sprain); MF Paulo Nagamura (L calf strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Jimmy Conrad (concussion); PROBABLE: DF Michael Lahoud (concussion)
Real Salt Lake - QUESTIONABLE: FW Paulo Jr. (L hamstring strain); DF Robbie Russell (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Will Johnson (L thumb fracture); FW Álvaro Saborío (R foot contusion)
Key Match Ups:
RSL's Offense vs. Chivas' Defense
When your read that you probably scratch your head a bit, but Chivas have given up just a single goal in their last 4 matches and just once (opening weekend) have they allowed more than a single goal to be scored against them. While the top scoring RSL offense of last year have just a single goal in their last two league matches, and that was a stoppage time goal by Fabian Espindola against Colorado. Twice this year RSL has scored more than a single goal, their 4-1 win over the Galaxy and their 2-0 win over New England. RSL have only given up two goals this year so it will be on the offense to do their job and get us goals, that will mean that the team will look to Alvaro Saborio to get his first goal of the season in league play. He should be able to outclass Chivas defender Andrew Boyens who has the size to cover him, but the crafty Heath Pearce could be another issue. I do think the pace of Espindola could be the deciding factor in this match, while he isn't the fastest guy on the pitch he finds a way to create and find space and I don't think the Chivas defense will be able to prevent him from getting some good looks.
Simon Elliot vs Javier Morales
Simon Elliot is older than every player on the RSL roster, at 36 years old he will be tasked with one of the most difficult things in all of Major League Soccer to do, cover Javier Morales. Elliot is one of the smartest central defenders in the league and his best bet will be to simply try to disrupt what Morales tries to do, if he should try to cover him one on one he may find himself looking around and wondering what happened. For Javier this season has already been a busy one with 6 CCL matches in addition to the 4 MLS matches he has played in, and in MLS play he has 2 goals and 2 assists. Now with Champions League over, I expect that we will see Javi begin to show the play that had him in the running for MVP last year, and there is no better match for him to do it than this weekend against Chivas USA.
Jason Kreis vs Robin Fraser
Yeah I had to do it, the teacher vs the student is simply too god of a story line but to be honest I am not sure it really fits this case. Yes Robin was the assistant coach for RSL, but I think he and Jason probably were learning most of their coaching skills at the same time. I believe you have seen Robin take the model used by RSL and apply it in his role at Chivas, get your defense sound, then look for a way to control possession of the ball and build your attack from possession. Both are guys who demand a lot of our their players, and are willing to work just as hard as they ask their players to work. I have joked for the past several years that both Jason and Robin looked like they could fill in on the pitch if their teams needed them to, fitness is something that they both take very seriously as coaches. We know how RSL will play, they will look to control possession and create offensive chances as often as possible, will Robin counter with a more defensive posture or will he look to take the attack to RSL?
While Braun has played in all but one match for Chivas this year, he has only started in 4 of their 7 matches. The Salt Lake City native has always played well against RSL and I have to wonder if he will be in the starting lineup on Saturday. He is still a young player, having just turned 24 recently but with the work ethic that Robin will demand of his players, you have to believe that Justin will need to adjust his playing style a bit to get back in the starting XI. If he gets on the pitch Saturday, you have to believe he will try to make the most of his minutes against RSL.
I just have a feeling that we might see something really special out of Will Johnson on Saturday, he has shown that he has the ability to hit shots from distance, he is one of the hardest working players in MLS and for some reason I am just expecting him to step up on Saturday. RSL never lacks leadership on the pitch, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Nat Borchers all know how to lead this team, and while Will Johnson isn't afraid to voice his opinions or thought to his teammates, opponents or even the officials it is his actions that speak louder. If you look for the ball, you will likely see Will Johnson close by, he is one of those players who seems to have the energy to chase every ball and fight for every 50-50 chance. He is comfortable breaking up counter attacks or leading the RSL counter and that is just what RSL need after a rough week. Someone who is comfortable letting their actions speak for them, yup I have a feeling this could be a match custom made for Will.
I hate listing the official each match but we continue to see them impact the final results, now that being said I think Paul Ward is one of the better officials that MLS uses. In 28 matches he averages calling 23.7 fouls per match, issues about 4 yellows and has pulled out the red card 8 times. The PK spot has been pointed to 6 times by Ward, and I hope that it stays that way this week.
One of two things is going to happen either RSL are going to come out and look like the team that kicked the daylights out of LA, or they are going to come out and look like the team that played the first half of the match at Portland? I think that enough time has passed from the crush of the Champions League, it is time for our boys to be about the business of MLS, and I fully expect that they will enter this match with the attitude of "we have let our fans down last week, no more". Gone is the pressure of the streak, gone is the pressure of having the league on your back, gone is the pressure of playing for a trophy before your season has even really started, all of that is gone. Now is the time for us to show ourselves what we are about, as a team, as fans, there is no better time to step back up to what we know we are capable of than to face our expansion rivals and remind them that this is still our time.
This one is going to end up in a huge 3-1 RSL win as Saborio will get his first of the year, and RSL will benefit from an early goal and look for Will Johnson to step up and do some really good things in this match. See you at Rio Tinto, remember it is a 2pm start.
OFF MY SOAPBOX