[MLS PLAYOFF PREDICTION]After five seasons of knocking heads as neighbors in Home Depot Center, the Southern California teams square off for the first time in the playoffs.
CHIVAS USA (13-11-6) vs. LOS ANGELES (12-6-12), 5 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
If dominance is outscoring a team, 2-0, over three games, then yes, the Galaxy dominated the season series with archrival Chivas USA this season while winning twice and tying once. Yet the latter team won more games, and complied only three fewer points than LA while conceding just as many goals (31).
Still, even with seven shutouts in its last nine games, the Galaxy can't be confident of preserving Chivas USA's blank slate indefinitely. More worrying, perhaps, to Chivas USA coach Preki is a three-game winless streak with which his team finished the season, after reeling off six games unbeaten while outscoring foes, 9-3. Justin Braun has scored three goals in the last four matches, and is mobile and strong enough to test the Galaxy back line, but not without help up top as well as support. After a moderate resurgence late in the season, midfielder Sacha Kljestan needs another wake-up call.
In its season finale (a 3-2 loss) against Houston Sunday, Chivas USA conceded the first goal after keeper Zach Thornton badly misjudged a cross. With Landon Donovan and David Beckham and Eddie Lewis always a threat on set plays the Galaxy can find opportunities in those situations. It needs an active and dangerous Edson Buddle, however, to exploit its possessions in the run of play. The possible absence of Stefani Miglioranziis a concern; either Dema Kovalenko or Chris Birchall needs to be sharp and aware of late runs coming out of Chivas USA's midfield.
Prediction:Chivas USA 1, Galaxy 1.