It might not seem like it, but Chivas USA have quietly put together a very solid season under first-year head coach Robin Fraser. The Goats currently sit 10th in the overall standings and 10th in Points Per Match, either way good enough to be projected for a playoff spot.
It hasn't been all smoke and mirrors, either. Their 30 goals scored is the seventh best total in MLS and they have allowed just 26 goals, sixth best in the league. With seven shutouts, they have recorded the fifth most in MLS. This has all helped to give them a +4 goal-difference, seventh best in the league. If anything, you could make a credible argument that this team has even under-achieved based on their statistics.
Perhaps one of the reasons people have a hard time taking this team seriously, though, is how they've played against top teams. Going off the USA Today's Sagarin Ratings, the Goats are 0-4-0 against Top 4 teams and just 1-6-3 against Top 8 teams. Their most notable result of the season was a 3-0 road win over the New York Red Bulls, a team that is looking worse and worse with each successive week.
Their latest chance to bolster their credibility comes on Saturday when they pay the Seattle Sounders a visit. The Sounders, currently ranked No. 4 by Sagarin, are one of the top teams almost no matter how you cut it. Their 35 goals (T2), +8 goal-difference (3) and 1.71 PPM (T3) are all among the best and they have lost just one of their past nine at CenturyLink Field.
If there's a good time for Chivas USA to visit the Sounders, though, this might be it. The Sounders are coming off a crazy 10-day stretch in which they played four games, one of which lasted 120 minutes and three of which were played in oppressive heat and humidity. Going even further back, it seems like every game they've played since the start of July has been emotionally charged for one reason or another. This game will represent the closest thing they have had to a breather since playing the New England Revolution at home on June 26.
The Rojiblancos are on a respectable run of their own. Led by the likes of Nick LaBrocca, Alejandro Moreno and Justin Braun, Chivas USA have gone 3-1-3 in their past seven and have outscored their opponents 10-5. Dan Kennedy has registered three of his seven shutouts during that stretch, with Michael Umana, Heath Pearce and Zarek Valentin all playing vital roles in the defense.
A win on Saturday wouldn't just be a psychological boost for Chivas USA, it would also bring them to .500 at 8-8-8 and potentially catapult them as high as eighth in the overall standings. By no means is this a must-win game for them, but coming just a few days after passing on Freddy Adu, some positive news would be welcome in the Southland.
Time: 4 p.m.; Day: Saturday; Pick: Sounders 2-1.
TFC's defense is bad. With 46 goals allowed, the next worst team has allowed 10 fewer. Last week, they managed to give up three goals to a DC United team that was forced to play almost the entire match with 10 men. It's crazy to think how much worse that might be if not for the efforts of goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Facing a RSL team that is coming off a 3-0 thrashing of the New York Red Bulls, this hardly seems to be the week where their defense turns it around. Pick: RSL 2-1.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
The Red Bulls may have the highest payroll and some of the league's most recognizable names, but they also have just two wins since the end of April and those were against the New England Revolution and TFC. Unfortunately for the Fire, they have been even worse with just one win in that timeframe. There's a saying that "somethings gotta give" but in soccer where ties are perfectly normal, that's not really true, is it? Pick: Tied 1-1.
DC United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Tune in to watch United on any given week and they could look like a team that is as dangerous as any in MLS or one that is incapable of beating even the league's worst teams. Last week, they managed a 3-3 tie against TFC despite playing a man down for 83 minutes and probably should have gotten the win. The Whitecaps finally snapped their losing streak last week and might actually start to make use of all that offensive talent they've acquired. Pick: Tied 2-2.
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
It boggles the mind how a team averaging barely more than a goal per game and allowing nearly as many has managed to climb atop the Eastern Conference standings, But here the Crew are, sitting pretty and looking primed to take one of the automatic playoff spots. Sure, they are coming off a road loss to the Rapids, but that's a pretty decent team. Surely, they can handle a pretty awful Revolution team at home, right? Pick: Crew 1-0.
Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m., Saturday
The Union have not exactly made life easy on themselves. They've managed to compile the East's best goal-difference (+7), but throw out a 6-2 win over TFC and a 3-0 victory over the Revs and they are barely even. Using Sagarin's ratings, they have yet to win a game against a Top 4 team and have gone just 1-3-4 against Top 8 sides. The Toros, meanwhile, are tied for the best record against Top 4 (2-2-1) and the most wins against Top 8 teams (5-3-2). You gotta give the Union a slight edge at home where they've lost just once, but beating the Toros will be no small task. Pick: Dallas 1-0.
It wasn't so long ago that this seemed to be shaping up to be another decent season for the Earthquakes. But they've now gone 10 games without a victory and find themselves with more points than just four teams. Part of their problem is that they've won just three of 13 at Buck Shaw Stadium. They are still just three points out of the final playoff spot, though, and a win could theoretically put them right back in the thick of it. The Rapids have put together a nice little run of their own, having claimed 13 points in their past six matches. Pick: Rapids 2-1.
After teetering on the brink of their season getting away from them, the Dynamo have managed to pull out results in each of the past two weeks against two of the league's better teams. A win over the Timbers would likely catapult them into playoff position. Similarly, the Timbers are coming off a week in which they snapped the Galaxy's 14-game unbeaten streak and managed a rare road result and find themselves just three points behind the playoff pace. An interesting side note, these teams recently completed a three-player trade that has so far worked out great for the Timbers. Pick: Dynamo 2-1.