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A Chivas USA win over Galaxy would boost playoff hopes

Even after a 4-0 drubbing by Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA would move into second place in the Western Conference if it can beat the Galaxy tonight at Home Depot Center.

August 29, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Anyone who watched Chivas USA being demolished, 4-0, by Real Salt Lake in Utah on Wednesday night could have come away believing that Chivas was done for the year.

It was the team's sixth loss in its last eight games and its second four-goal defeat in three weeks.

So, are Chivas USA's Major League Soccer playoff hopes in tatters?

"Are you kidding me?" asked Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, whose team plays Chivas tonight at the Home Depot Center. "There's still a lot to play for, and the points can turn quickly."

Chivas simply had a game plan that failed, Arena said.

"They went in with a pretty defensive posture and a vision of trying to get a point out of that game," he said, "and when you go in with that kind of mentality and you give up a goal in the first half, then obviously things change quickly."

The MLS playoff race is nearing the homestretch and is exceptionally tight, with 11 teams realistically in contention for the eight playoff places. The top two teams in each conference qualify, along with four wild cards regardless of conference.

With 10 or fewer games remaining, only six points, or two wins, separate the last eight contenders, ranging from the Galaxy with 35 points to D.C. United with 29.

It's so tight that a victory tonight would leapfrog Chivas over the Galaxy and into second place in the Western Conference.

Galaxy forward Landon Donovan says he believes that despite recent results, Chivas can't be counted out, especially because it has played two fewer games than the Galaxy and three fewer than conference-leading Houston.

"We thought they were done after they went five games without winning, and they came back and won two in a row," Donovan said. "They're a dangerous team to play against, especially at the Home Depot Center." Donovan said the recent addition of Brazilian forward Maicon Santos and Mexican winger Jesus Padilla had made Chivas "a little more dangerous going forward, but I think we can learn a lot from how Salt Lake played and controlled that game."

Added Galaxy teammate David Beckham: "It's a big game for us, not just for the rivalry but because we want to keep the pressure on Houston and also make a bit of distance from Chivas and the teams that are behind us. It's really important that we win."

The Galaxy already has tied Chivas, 0-0, and won, 1-0, this season.

And the lopsided loss in Utah left Chivas nonplused. "After that second goal, it was all downhill," said Chivas Coach Preki.

"A lot of guys didn't have good games," said playmaker Sacha Kljestan.

Chivas USA midfielder and team captain Jesse Marsch added that the team had been "undisciplined and unorganized."

The Galaxy, however, is not buying the idea that Chivas is dead in the water. "I'm sure given everything that's at stake this weekend that they'll be a much different team," Donovan said.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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