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A fierce rivalry is renewed.

On Form

Chivas USA:
Wednesday’s performance against an undermanned New England team is a glimpse of Chivas USA becoming acclimated with each other under a new system. The Chivas USA starting 11 is beginning to hit its stride, as they have begun getting results both at home and on the road. The match against a Houston team who recently thrashed the Goats in Houston will serve as a litmus test to see how they compare against one of the most experienced teams in the league.

Houston:  The Dynamo's up and down season continued during the midweek with a 1-0 loss to in-state rival FC Dallas. The midfield creativity and control that Houston demonstrated last weekend was stifled by the smaller, but faster Dallas midfield as Houston failed to take advantage of a red card against FCD's Jair Benitez with 20 minutes to go. In order for the Dynamo to pull off a season sweep of Chivas USA, they will have to answer a couple questions. First, who's healthy? Chivas USA has shown the ability to score goals this season and they
will likely put the Dynamo defense to the test. With veteran Eddie Robinson expected to be out, Ryan Cochrane will need to step up. On the other end of the formation, fans and teammates alike will be hoping that Brian Ching can return for the first time since Week 2 of the season. Even if he can't play, his presence of the bench alone could give the team a much needed emotional boost.

Off Target

Chivas USA: Tough to find a fault with the Goats after they demolished a New England team who was never really up to the task on Wednesday.  The largest factor against Chivas USA may well be psychological. Chivas USA are much improved in their performances over their play at the start of the season, but they are inexperienced and prone to letting good performances go to their heads, as evidenced with their letdown in Houston following a commanding win against New York. It will be interesting to see how they respond to success.

Houston: To say that Houston is struggling with their consistency is a fairly obvious statement. The Dynamo know they aren't doing the things they need to be successful, but just how to fix the problem is up to this point eluding them. Against Kansas City, Dominic Oduro and Luis Landin worked together as well as anyone could have hoped and allowed the midfield to create opportunities in the space they created in the attacking third. Four days later, the duo was far less effective and Houston struggled generate any offense. Worse still, when they did finally create a chance, the Dallas defense managed to stop shots at the last second to cause further even more frustration for the Dynamo.

Tactics

Chivas USA: Chivas USA have seemingly struck gold with their modified 4-5-1 that allows Sacha Kljestan to roam the field as a sometimes withdrawn forward, similar to what Clint Dempsey does for the USMNT.  A large part of their success is predicated on the play of Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin, the two former Akron Zips who are doing all of the dirty work that used to be handled Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura. After their initial pairing against San Jose, the rookies have not ceded their place in Martin Vasquez’ starting 11.

Houston: Defender Eddie Robinson suffered a knee sprain in the Dallas match, so if he is unable to go, Ryan Cochrane will join Bobby Boswell in the central defense. The big potential return for Houston is Brian Ching who could be available for Dominic Kinnear against Chivas USA. Ching could provide a much needed spark for an inconsistent offense that is on-fire one match and non-existent the next. Whether Ching starts or is available as a sub will determine how Luis Angel Landin fits in to the lineup. Dominic Oduro will remain up front, while the midfield of Palmer, Ashe, Mullan and Davis will remain unchanged.

Intangibles

Chivas USA: Houston comes into the Home Depot Center knowing that they dismantled Chivas USA last time out as Chivas USA tried in vain to penetrate the Houston back line.  The Dynamo are confident and Luis Angel Landin has looked more like something resembling a Designated Player this week.  The victor will be the team that imposes their tempo on the game, just like last time.

Houston: The Dynamo looked tired against Dallas and another short rest between matches plus a flight to the West Coast will test the team's character
and fitness. How they handle the lack of rest and the travel will determine their success against Chivas USA.

Outcome

Chivas USA: CD Chivas USA 2-1 Houston Dynamo: Chivas USA are playing with confidence and have learned hard lessons early on this year. The revenge-minded Goats edge Houston in a hard-fought match at home.

Houston: Houston's up and down season has made predicting this team's performance difficult. The trend up to this point has been for the Dynamo to bounce back from a loss with a strong performance, so I'm using this logic to predict a 2-1 victory over Chivas USA.


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