A Portland team that could still win the MLS regular season crown meets one of the league’s chronic losers tonight in Carson, with Chivas USA needing a win merely to equal last year’s pathetic total of seven wins that itself represented the franchise’s worst performance since their opening season in 2005.
It’s an alleged “new era” that sadly looks a lot like the old one for a club that shows no signs of shaking off an ingrained malaise that should have the league office reacting in alarm as promised back in July, but instead leaves one wondering whether MLS Commish Don Garber is getting in some practice of genuflecting to wealthy, clueless team owners before fleeing for the NFL as conjectured.
In fairness, the club hinted at better times briefly late in the season, on the field at least. But with Chivas USA likely to start all over again in the offseason if the current coach leaves as expected, a roster largely bereft of MLS quality players and a management and ownership team that inspires confidence in virtually no one, it’s hard to see any end to one of the most slowly unfolding and humiliating marketing disasters in professional sports.
The Timbers, in contrast, are everything Chivas USA is not, but should be. A savvy owner, deliriously loyal fan base, quick to adapt to MLS wily coach, exciting players capable of incisive, cunning football, and superb venue have combined to make one of the league’s greatest success stories with the potential for much more to come.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy arguably have much more at stake in this game than their local rivals, who after this game will slink off into the wilderness of the MLS winter as much adrift as ever.
Chivas USA’s 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake Wednesday night that denied the Galaxy a chance to finish first in the Western Conference has put LA in the odd spot of cheering for their regional rivals for the second consecutive game this coming weekend as the MLS season concludes.
A win or a tie by Chivas USA in Carson Saturday against the second place Portland Timbers combined with a Galaxy victory over the Sounders in Seattle Sunday would give LA second place in the division. That’s because Portland and the Galaxy would be tied on points (with a Timbers win), but the positional tie breaker is total wins, not goal difference and LA would have two more wins than the Timbers.
Despite coach Bruce Arena’s protestations earlier in the week about the timing of the game, the contest might actually help the Galaxy’s MLS playoff cause in one respect by giving returning defender A.J. DeLaGarza valuable minutes before the playoffs begin, while keeping suspended midfielder Juninho fresh for much the same reason.
Finally, Galaxy fans should take a moment to click on the following link to give former defender Chris Albright his fair due as he bids farewell to the game.
Albright was always a quiet locker room leader who knew how to set an example on and off the field. Quite simply one of the classiest and most articulate spokesman for the sport I have ever had the pleasure to interview, I’m guessing we haven’t heard the last of him in a coaching or some other capacity in MLS.
The LA Galaxy have more on the line tonight in Sandy, Utah than local rivals and visitors Chivas USA do against Western Conference title contenders Real Salt Lake.
While the Galaxy’s desultory 0-0 tie against San Jose Sunday gave them a playoff berth, a shock Chivas USA win — or even tie — would leave the Galaxy in with an outside chance of winning the very tight Western Conference if other results go their way.
Of course, RSL have plenty of motivation, too, but they will meet a team with players who know their careers are in potential jeopardy given the club’s ghastly season that long ago ran its course.
It’s a big ask for one of the worst teams in MLS to overcome one of the best at this stage of the season, but there is a ray of hope for the Galaxy and Chivas USA: The Goats actually beat RSL 1-0 back in March 2012 in Utah
Notable: Influential Ecuadorian midfielder Oswaldo Minda sat out Chivas USA’s last match due to yellow card accumulation and will likely return to the starting XI tonight.
The game is live on Spanish-language station KWHY.
“With a win against the Sounders on Sunday, the Galaxy will be guaranteed of a top three finish in the ultra-tight Western Conference,” according to a club press release.” However, a loss or a draw combined with a Colorado victory at Vancouver will see the Galaxy open the postseason on October 30 or October 31 in the knockout round.”
In between, the Galaxy reserves play a final meaningless CONCACAF Champions League match(live at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports 2), after already clinching a spot in the next stage of the competition.
If you’re still reeling from the last minute, last gasp drama of last night’s regional World Cup qualifying games (you’re welcome, Mexico), take a deep breath as we return to the comparatively calm waters of MLS tonight when the Galaxy take on the flailing Montreal Impact at StubHub Center.
The visitors are losers of three straight home games and are winless in five, yet the banged up Galaxy (will Juninho return?), edging toward a playoff spot, are unlikely to feel much of a sense of superiority against a team they have met just once (and never in Carson).
The U.S. completes World Cup qualifying tonight, while Landon Donovan remains a doubt for the Galaxy’s next two games Wednesday against the struggling Montreal Impact and Sunday against the Earthquakes.
The Galaxy could have dominating defender Omar Gonzalez available Wednesday for the StubHub Center showdown with the Montreal Impact and coach Bruce Arena has reportedly attempted unsuccessfully to prise top scorer Robbie Keane from Ireland’s clutches for the game, too, if that nation’s slim chance of World Cup qualification goes south Friday against Germany.
Gonzales, you’ll recall, pulled out of the U.S. squad earlier this week.
Incidentally, Keane was asked after last weekend’s SuperClasico about the chances of him returning early from national team duty for the Montreal game should Ireland stumble against the Germans.
“We definitely need a miracle,” Keane said of Ireland’s chances while dismissing the suggestion he might return early. “It’s nothing to do with me. I’m called up for international duty and I have to go. That’s a question you’re going to have to ask (the Galaxy) and the country. As far as I’m concerned I’m going to play for my country. … I’ve never shied away from that.”
By the way, the Galaxy clinched the MLS Reserve League title earlier this week with a win over Chivas USA, which will keep busy over the weekend with a behind closed doors game against New Zealand, which is tuning up for a World Cup playoff game against CONCACAF opposition.
The MLS schedule takes a break this weekend for the final qualifying rounds of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The U.S. play their final two qualifiers, although they are already through to Brazil, of course.
More on the U.S. status is in this week’s column, which was written before the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez withdrew from the U.S. roster this morning because of a strained hip sustained in Sunday’s SuperClasico. The injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Galaxy: it means the dominating defender could be available for next Wednesday’s visit by the Montreal Impact.