Between USA-Turkey and some errands, I won't be able to fit in my normal opus on our opponents tonight. However, if you haven't left for Lot 8 already, a quick look at Chivas USA is beyond the jump.
Martin Vasquez has been employing a somewhat unorthodox 4411 in recent games. This has allowed Chivas to keep Sacha Kljestan in a floating role while providing enough slots in midfield to fit in promising rookies Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanski. Don't let their inexperience fool you; Gavin has mostly met the expectations placed on a 1st round pick, while Zemanski might be the steal of the 2010 draft. On top of that, they had 3 seasons playing alongside each other in college, as both players are former Akron Zips (coached by Caleb Porter...remember him? Sigh.). In the midfield, we'll have to work very hard in transition to prevent that trio from controlling the tempo.
On the wings, we might have an advantage. If, as expected, we use Andy Najar at right midfield and Jordan Graye at right back, we'll have a decent chance to create some danger attacking the Chivas left. Carlos Borja will be standing in for the World Cup-bound Jonathan Bornstein, but has barely played any MLS matches. Meanwhile, Padilla has plenty of attacking ability, but comes with big questions about his work ethic. If Graye can use his speed advantage over Padilla to both hold the fort defensively and contribute to the offense, Najar should be able to outfox Borja and create some chances.
There's a similarly promising situation on the other side. Michael Lahoud is a top-notch athlete who will not be intimidated at having to cope with the speed and power of both Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace on our left. However, behind him is Mariano Trujillo, a 35 year old with limited speed who would prefer to be able to attack more than he's allowed to in MLS. Pontius should look to isolate Trujillo all game long, both to keep him at home (Trujillo's a good crosser, so this is important) and to break through the Chivas back four. Lahoud will help out due to his non-stop engine, but that's where Wallace might be able to take advantage. If Chivas is forced to use two men to deal with Pontius, Wallace will be able to find gaps on the overlap.
Vasquez's preferred center back pairing, Costa Ricans Michael Umana and Dario Delgado, is probably the club's weak point. Neither player looks to be of the required standard in MLS, but both have respectable quickness. The way past them is a combination of smart movement from Danny Allsopp and, ideally, movement on either flank to stretch them out and cause chaos. Chivas has given up almost as many goals as us, so another impotent offensive showing would be a massive letdown.
Defensively, United will have to keep an eye out for Justin Braun, as he tormented us in last year's 2-0 home loss. Braun's size is a worry against Carey Talley and Juan Manuel Pena; the idea is to keep Chivas from firing in too many crosses, while also getting good work from Clyde Simms and (hopefully?) Stephen King in helping win the second balls that Braun knocks down for Kljestan et al.
I'll close by emphasizing that I still haven't totally given up on this DC United team. Are we going to the playoffs? Probably not. However, there's a lot of young talent here and we need to build on it while proving we can win with the kids on the field. After our encouraging win over AC Milan, it's time to do the same trick in MLS. We have just one win all year, and it came against a poor Kansas City team in what may be the sloppiest MLS game I've seen this season. Today needs to be better both in terms of the result and the performance.