This Sunday, we have yet another rendition of the SuperClasico, the LA Derby, El Clasico Angelino, the LA Galaxy vs. CD Chivas USA. This is the thirtieth edition of the SuperClasico, with the Galaxy winning 18 of those match-ups. Chivas have only won the season series once, in 2007. LA have outscored the goats in the series 50-25.
We asked several questions of The Goat Parade's Alicia Rodriguez to get a feel for where Chivas are right now. Last time out, Chivas were able to get a 1-1 draw a man down, and looked like a club poised to make a run this year. Now, not so much. As always, my answers to her questions are up over there.
1) Lots of changes to Chivas USA since these sides last met. What players from that 1-1 draw have left, and how have they been replaced?
To this point, three players have left since the last match against the Galaxy. Forward Juan Agudelo, who is somehow still tied for the team lead in scoring despite not playing for Chivas in a couple months, was traded to the New England Revolution for Allocation Money. And Eric Avila is on an extended trial at Chivas de Guadalajara, while Giovani Casillas is as well, although Casillas is on loan from Guadalajara and could just be recalled.
Overall, these players have not been replaced. Chivas ended up trading for M/D Gabriel Farfan after the Agudelo trade, but those moves are not like-for-like. Avila and Casillas just left in the last couple weeks, so there hasn't been much time to replace them, but their departures, along with the absences of forward Julio Morales, who is with Mexico at the U-20 World Cup, and Steve Purdy with El Salvador's national team, means Chivas' roster is depleted, with just 24 players around (and that doesn't include injuries). With most of the departed players (whether temporary or permanent) attacking players, it looks like Chivas are going to continue to struggle mightily with scoring.
2) Also a new head coach in place at Chivas. How did he do in his first MLS tilt?
Well, Chivas lost 3-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps, so it continues their losing streak, and the game was lost in first half injury time, when Vancouver scored two goals. But if one can point to positives from that game, it is that they did play better. Compared to how they were playing through a brutal stretch against Sporting Kansas City, Portland and Real Salt Lake, where they suffered three straight blowout losses, Wednesday's loss looks like it could be a positive step. Still, it is difficult to be optimistic at this point with the winless run, which stretches to nine matches in MLS play.
3) Chivas have gotten five goals from the forward position this year, and two of those are now with the New England Revolution. What has been the struggle there?
Great question. I wrote this week that perhaps the biggest problem has been the depth at the position, which now sits at 3-4 strikers TOTAL. While I don't think merely signing players to take up space is an effective option, having so few forwards is completely untenable. The result has been that the de facto starters have been Tristan Bowen and Jose Correa. Bowen floats around the field and could possibly become a successor to Eric Avila if he's in Mexico for good, but that detracts from the problem at hand, which is fielding strikers. Correa has been completely ineffective this season, and starting him over and over again really hasn't changed his form or inspired another player to step up. Admittedly, there have been games where the strikers haven't gotten good service, but lately the problem seems to be that Chivas' flank players provide service, but no striker is ever making the right run to take advantage of the service. The defensive problems may get the headlines, but I think the actual roster make-up on the attacking end is far more concerning at this point.
4) Defensive strength used to be a calling card of Chivas even when goals weren't coming. With no clean sheets this year, what's to blame?
Chelís started the season stating he didn't care that much about tight games and professed to be happy playing games that ended 4-3, even if that meant Chivas lost. We should have known from there, but additionally, his 3-man backline started out well enough and then completely fell apart over the course of his short tenure. The thing is, while I think the standard four-man defense employed by Jose Luis Real is more sensible and likely to pay off than Chelís' formation, I'm not convinced that the main problem is the formation. To me, it's clear that the players on the defense have to shoulder a considerable burden. They are the oldest unit on the roster, and have the most experience (outside of MLS, of course, since so few players on the team really have any experience in this league), but they get pulled out of position quite a bit, and most significantly, they are slow. I think we'll have to see how the defense, as well as the team more generally, performs over the next 4-5 games, but I just think the players overall aren't good enough to really hack it in MLS.
5) Projected lineup?
GK: Dan Kennedy
D: Carlos Borja, Mario de Luna, Walter Vilchez, Gabriel Farfan
M: Tristan Bowen, Carlos Alvarez, Oswaldo Minda, Jose Manuel Rivera, Jorge Villafana
F: Jose Correa