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August 13, 2010 at 4:02 PM

Sounders FC v. Chivas USA, preview and prediction post

Chivas USA 5-10-3 (last in Western Conference)

Head coach: Martin Vasquez, first year

Last week: Lost at Toronto 2-1, first loss in five games

Last year: 13-11-6 (playoff team, went 2-0-1 against Seattle)

KEY CHIVAS USA PLAYERS

F Giancarlo Maldonado — The Venezuelan striker has been the first name mentioned by Seattle coach Sigi Schmid all week to reporters. His addition is one of many moves the Goats have made during the summer transfer window. He’s played in Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico and Spain.

GK Zach Thornton — The old vet and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is apparently healthy again and ready to go, in part because starter Dan Kennedy has gone on the shelf. How game-ready is the big guy? That will be the question.

F Justin Braun — The 23 year old is in incredible form and got my runner-up vote for MLS Player of the Month in July. He’s got seven goals on the season, I think five were last month, and three assists to lead his team’s attack of late.

KEY MATCHUPS

Seattle forward Fredy Montero v. Chivas USA defender Michael Umana — Not sure anyone right now can stop Montero, who might be the most valuable player in the league. The Costa Rican international will be the home team’s best shot at keeping the young Colombian off the scoresheet, but he might not sleep well.

Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso v. Chivas USA midfielder Paulo Nagamura — The Sounders terrier in the middle of the field has been as big a part as any (OK, maybe not Montero) in his team’s recent turnaround. Nagamura is an MLS mainstay and recently returned to the club after a short stint in Mexico. Look for them to battle each other several times Saturday.

Seattle fullbacks v. Chivas USA wingers — Another player Schmid has continued to reference this week is Rodolfo Espinoza, a Mexican winger who recently joined the team and will take on Leo on the right. USMNT Jonathan Bornstein (who did play Brazil midweek) could be on the other flank against James Riley.

PREDICTION

Seattle may be the hottest team in the league, but don’t sleep on Chivas, which until last week’s narrow loss at BMO Field was 2-0-2 in its last four games. Sigi Schmid being able to possibly replace Steve Zakuani with Alvaro Fernandez is a nice luxury, and the potential Sounders FC starting lineup looks mighty good on paper.

I think Montero’s form puts Seattle over the top for another win against a Western Conference side and a third-straight result on the road.

Sounders FC 3, Chivas USA 1

SEA — Montero (Fernandez) 34′

SEA — Montero (pk) 50′

CHI — Braun (Nagamura) 67′

SEA — Montero (Alonso) 85′

That’s right, a hat trick. And why not…?

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