Thursday's game against the LA Galaxy is just one of a string of big games Chivas USA will have in the coming days. On Sunday, Chivas USA will play Pachuca in the SuperLiga opener for both teams. Then, Santos will visit on Wednesday followed by a match against New England on July 20.
That's four games in 11 days. A rather taxing schedule.
How can Chivas USA manage it without burning out their entire roster? Here's my guess.
Unfortunately, Chivas USA does not have its full complement of players available. If Maykel Galindo, Alecko Eskandarian, Raphael Wicky and Lawson Vaughn were all healthy, things would be a lot easier. As it stands, they're not. So it's not. But that doesn't mean that the club is entirely void of depth.
Clearly, Thursday's game takes precedence. I don't think we'll see anything short of Chivas USA's full arsenal against the Galaxy.
But I also don't think we'll see the same players against Pachuca. Nor should we. If Ante Razov, for instance, plays 90 minutes in both games, then I'll be shocked.
Chivas USA's depth needs to be utilized if the club is to avoid further injuries and damaging their chances for the stretch run.
In defense, Chivas USA has four quality central defenders in Claudio Suarez, Jim Curtin, Shavar Thomas and Bobby Burling, this year's diamond-in-the-rough. Suarez and Burling have played together in league while Thomas and Curtin played the Open Cup together. The latter duo should get the start against Pachuca while the former should start against Santos.
On the left, Chivas USA did have three or even four players available for two slots, in Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Mendoza, Jorge Flores and Justin Braun. Unfortunately, Flores sprained his ankle. Not sure if he's out of SuperLiga entirely but apparently won't play on Thursday. Bornstein and Mendoza are fit enough to play 90 minutes on both Thursday and Sunday if need be, and I think that's the case. With Flores, you could swap out Bornstein, rest him and start Mendoza in the back and Flores wide left, then rest Panchito on Wednesday and play Bornstein and Flores together. But that's not the case.
On the right, Chivas USA has settled down somewhat. It would be good for Chivas USA if Lawson Vaughn were healthy but that's not what is shaping up. Probably we'll see Carey Talley at right back and Sacha Kljestan at right mid against Pachuca. What else can Chivas do? Burling has played right back before, though it's sort of out of position for him. Daniel Paladini could spell Kljestan.
Something Preki might opt for is to return to the 4-5-1 formation that helped the club win three straight. Atiba Harris would play wide right with Mendoza (though it was Flores who started two of those games) on the left and Kljestan behind Justin Braun up top.
Clearly, Ante Razov should not play 90 minutes against Pachuca. It would be best to rest him entirely and have him go the distance against Santos, as tempting as it would be to go with him off the bench against Pachuca. But you have Braun and Harris and Anthony Hamilton so there are other options.
Anyway, here's how I think the club should line up on Sunday and Wednesday respectively.
Guzan; Talley, Thomas, Curtin, Bornstein; Kljestan, Nagamura, Marsch, Mendoza; Braun, Harris.
Guzan; Talley, Burling, Suarez, Bornstein; Kljestan, Nagamura, Paladini, Mendoza; Harris, Razov.
If Chivas is still alive for the semifinals following the Santos match, you re-evaluate the starters and health and fitness levels of the playes and prepare accordingly for New England. If not, clear the bench for the Revs and prepare for the break.