Goats look to continue unbeaten streak vs. Puebla

Group B of the 2010 Superliga kicks off with a bang this Thursday evening

Who: Chivas USA vs. Puebla FC

What: SuperLiga 2010, Group A, Match 2

When: Thursday, July 15, 10:30 pm ET

Where: The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.

TV Info: Telefutura (Spanish); MLSsoccer.com & Superliga2010.com (English)

Group B of the 2010 Superliga kicks off with a bang this Thursday evening, with two opening round games in two different cities. While Pachuca and Houston square off in Texas, Chivas USA will host Puebla FC at The Home Depot Center in a first-ever meeting between the two sides. A win in the first game will go a long way in ensuring qualification for the knockout stages.

While some may argue that the Superliga’s importance is overshadowed by bigger tournaments like the U.S. Open Cup or the CONCACAF Champions League, a $1 million dollar purse will widen the eyes of any of the eight teams involved in the tournament. And, of course, there’s the pride involved in collecting a piece of international silverware for the trophy case.

Chivas USA

After a six-game losing streak, the Goats have bounced back and bounced back hard. The team is unbeaten in its last four outings (in all competitions) and has found renewed life in tournament play.

The turnaround began in the U.S. Open Cup, with a solid 1-0 win against PDL side Austin Aztex on June 29. The Goats then continued their momentum in the USOC with a 3-1 win on July 6 over Western Conference rivals Houston Dynamo. That match not only marked Chivas USA’s first-ever victory at Robertson Stadium, it also sent them through to their first-ever appearance in the USOC semifinals.

Aside from the boost in confidence that the unbeaten streak has given the Red-and-White, the team will also be bolstered by the additions of midfielder Paulo Nagamura and striker Giancarlo Maldonado to the roster.

The pair have a wealth of experience in foreign leagues – both are coming off recent stints in the Mexican First Division – and help to strengthen the Goats’ attack and organization. Nagamura rejoins Chivas USA after playing with Tigres UANL, where he saw action in 14 games, 11 as a starter. As for Maldonado, although he hasn’t been able to replicate the form he showed when he scored 18 goals to help Atlante lift the Mexican Apertura 2007 title, Venezuela’s all-time leading goalscorer remains a solid threat up top.

Puebla FC

La Franja, as opposed to Chivas USA, will likely enter Thursday’s match a bit rusty. With the Mexican First Division currently on break, Puebla havn’t played a fully competitive match since Bicentenario 2010 came to a close in mid-May.

Puebla head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, however, says his squad, which has relied on a string of exhibition matches against first- and second-division Mexican club to gain some match fitness, are playing at a good rhythm.

The Mexican club will also try to continue their tradition of doing well in tournament play. The team qualified for the finals of the 2010 Interliga tournament and will be eager to replicate that success in SuperLiga.

Helping to bolster the squad is the return of Puebla legend Álvaro González after a short stint with Mexican Second Division side Lobos BUAP. The Uruguayan striker has notched 72 goals in 113 appearances for Los Camoteros, which puts him at 4th place in the club’s all-time scoring list, and averaged a goal in every two games last season.