Chivas USA have reason to believe
Let’s be honest: Chivas USA’s chances of making an appearance in the 2010 postseason are slim. The team has just seven wins in a year largely devoted to rebuilding with the arrival of new head coach Martín Vásquez. With 25 points from 23 matches, the Red-and-White will likely need at least five wins from their final seven games if they are to maintain any hope of a fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
It’s a daunting task, but not impossible. As the Goats head down the stretch, MLSsoccer.com provides three reasons why their mission isn’t as hopeless as it may seem.
Home Sweet Home
Four of Chivas USA’s seven remaining regular season matches will be played at the Home Depot Center, where the team hasn’t lost since June 26. The Goats are currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak in Carson, and it has been 272 minutes since the team has conceded a goal there.
The three road games left on the schedule are at Philadelphia, Seattle and San Jose. The Red-and-White have yet to lose to any of these teams this season, and all three have proven to be vulnerable at home.
Philadelphia have struggled to get wins in Chester lately, with a record of 1-4-1 in their last six games at brand new PPL Park. San Jose, meanwhile, have scored just 13 goals at home so far this season while conceding 10. And both the Earthquakes’ goals-scored and at-home goal differential are the worst in the Western Conference.
Seattle have been stronger at home than the others, but Chivas USA remain the only team in MLS to never lose to the Sounders in league play and will hope to keep that streak going in Washington.
Strength of Schedule
There are no easy games in MLS, but it’s fair to say that Chivas USA have already dealt with the toughest parts of the 2010 schedule. The team has played both its matches against powerhouses New York, Columbus, Salt Lake and Dallas, and will face comparably easier competition in the coming weeks.
Of the seven opponents Chivas USA have left to play, only three are currently sitting in one of the eight 2010 playoff spots: Los Angeles, Seattle and San Jose. Of those three, only the Galaxy look to be a sure thing for November; the Sounders and the Earthquakes are in the two lowest postseason positions.
None of the other four teams on the calendar (Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Toronto) have winning records as of Sept. 13, and Chicago, Kansas City and Toronto – three of the four squads that will play Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center – only have six roads wins between them all season.
It’s a long shot that the Goats will see postseason action in 2010, but if they were ever going to make a surprise push for the playoffs, theirs is a favorable schedule to get it done.
Without a doubt, 2010 has been a rebuilding season for Chivas USA. Since Vásquez arrived last December, 17 players on the Goats' roster have left the team due to retirement, release, transfer, loan or the 2009 expansion draft. The purge of players is offset by the arrival of 14 new faces.
Needless to say, finding team chemistry has been a difficult task for the Red-and-White this year. Many of the team’s losses in 2010 can be attributed to lack of cohesion on the pitch, but the team appears to be overcoming their early season miscues. New players are finding their place within the team’s system and Vásquez himself has seemed more comfortable at the helm.
A respectable 4-3-3 record in their last 10 matches is a far cry from the abysmal 2-1-7 they endured in the 10 previous games and a sign of newfound chemistry in the team.
In other words, the Goats may be starting to find their stride, and that could spell trouble for opposing teams in the coming weeks.