A difficult week for Chivas USA could lead to a difficult weekend for Sounders FC, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid fears.
Chivas takes a seven-game winless streak and four-game losing streak into its 7:30 p.m. Saturday visit from the Sounders. The Goats have been outscored 13-1 over those four losses and have fallen into last place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.
That tumble caused the club to part ways with coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola on Wednesday. Jose Luis Real, formerly sporting development director of Chivas Guadalajara, was awarded the job. However, he will not join the club until next week, so interim coach Sacha van der Most, director of their youth academy, will lead the Goats against Seattle.
“I think it makes them all the more dangerous,” Schmid said Friday. “The topsy-turvy week that they’ve had makes it a little more difficult for us to prepare.”
Also this week, two Chivas USA youth coaches filed a discrimination lawsuit against the team, claiming they were fired because they aren’t Mexican or Latino.
The Chivas USA roster was overhauled during the offseason, with players – including Sounders
midfielder Shalrie Joseph – being traded or cut and replaced with those who are Latino. Sola explained to the Los Angeles Times in January that having more Mexican players on the MLS club makes them eligible to play for either Chivas team.
Southern California fans have rejected the new-look Chivas from the start. The club drew an announced crowd of 7,121 for its opener March 2 against Columbus. Chivas remains last in MLS with average home attendance of 8,059 – less than half the league average attendance of 17,248.
On Friday, Chivas USA issued a statement – in Spanish and English – saying the club “is and always has been an organization that respects everyone without any distinction, and knows that its employees are the most valuable asset the company has. We reiterate our most absolute respect for diversity.”
Schmid, however, wishes he could turn back the clock.
“I wish none of that would have happened this week,” he said. “I wish they would still have the same coach. I wish they wouldn’t have put out the press release. I wish they wouldn’t have an interim coach because right now we’re running blind. We’re guessing.”
The Sounders have enough to worry about on their own. The good feelings from a six-game unbeaten streak were largely knocked away this week by the one-two punch of a 4-0 league loss at Los Angeles on Sunday and a 1-0 U.S. Open Cup loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
On top of the general fatigue from those two games and the two cross-country trips, the Sounders’ personnel problems have stubbornly stuck around.
Seattle will be without forward Eddie Johnson and midfielder Brad Evans, who are with the U.S. national team. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is questionable and midfielder Steve Zakuani is out due to injury. Joseph is ineligible due to a red card awarded late in the loss to L.A. And on Friday, Joseph’s suspension was doubled to two games by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, which determined that “the act was egregious, involving contact above the shoulders that endangered the safety of his opponent, and required further sanction.”
Still, the Sounders say they are happy to get back onto the field quickly with a chance to turn things around once again.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we seemed untouchable, and that’s the part that we have to remember,” veteran goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said after the loss at Tampa Bay. “The hard work that we put in (Wednesday), with a bit more quality, and we’re there again.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-3, 15 POINTS) AT CHIVAS USA (3-7-2, 11)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads 4-2-4 overall. The series is 2-2-2 at Chivas. The Sounders are unbeaten (4-0-4) over the last eight meetings. Seattle won the 2012 series, 2-0-1. The teams will meet again July 28 and Sept. 4 in Seattle.
NOTES: Chivas is last in the MLS Western Conference. After going 0-6-1 over last seven games, the club parted ways with coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola on Wednesday and will be led Saturday by interim coach Sacha van der Most, director of their youth academy. ... Chivas is 18th in the 19-team league in goal differential (minus-11). Chivas leads MLS in yellow cards. ... The Sounders are playing their third game in seven days. They lost the first two: a league match at Los Angeles on Sunday and an Open Cup match at Tampa Bay on Wednesday. ... Seattle midfielder Shalrie Joseph is ineligible while starting a two-game suspension for “violent conduct” at the end of the Sounders’ league game Sunday at Los Angeles. Joseph made 12 starts for Chivas last season. ... Juan Agudelo leads Chivas with two goals. Seattle goals leader, Eddie Johnson (four), is out due to U.S. national team duty, along with midfielder Brad Evans. ... Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (hip) will be a game-time decision. Midfielder Steve Zakuani (abdomen) did not travel. ... The referee is Ricardo Salazar.
QUOTABLE: “Everybody’s got a new chance, everybody’s got to reprove themselves, everybody’s got to show again what they’re going to do, so there’s a huge motivational push for them.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on the affect of the Chivas coaching change.
NEXT: 1 p.m. June 8, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, CenturyLink Field.blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer