THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
1 pm PT (ESPN2)
By the time the meeting kicks off on ESPN2, the MetroStars task will be clearly set before them. Tied with the Kansas City Wizards for the final spot available for the MLS Cup Playoffs, a K.C. win in Dallas will mean the MetroStars will need a victory by at least seven goals at The Home Depot Center (depending on the margin of victory for the Wizards) if they are to overcome the Kansas City advantage in goal difference, where the next tie-breaker will fall. A failure by the Wizards to take all three points, and the MetroStars control their own fate by simply bettering the Kansas City result. Chivas USA also will have an eye on the scoreboard - just two points behind expansion brethren Salt Lake City entering the final weekend, they can overtake them for fifth place if they can claim a victory in their final match.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): David Bragg; 4th: Jair Marrufo
MLS Career: 118 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 31; pens: 19
Games involving Chivas USA: P2 W0 L2 T0; FC/gm: 26.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0
Games involving MetroStars: P26 W7 L16 T3; FC/gm: 27.5; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 10; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: CHIVAS USA - OUT: FW Thiago Martins (R knee MCL sprain); MF Hector Castro (L knee ACL surgery); GK Brad Guzan (frontal sinus and nasal fracture); PROBABLE: MF Francisco Gomez (L quadriceps strain); DF Victor Arbelaez (L adductor strain) ... METROSTARS - OUT: MF Ramon Bailey (L foot fracture); GK Mike Ueltschey (L sports hernia); FW Abbe Ibrahim (season ending IR); QUESTIONABLE: MF Danilo da Silva (post-surgery recovery); DF Jeff Agoos (L calf strain); DF Carlos Mendes (L hamstring strain)
WARNINGS: CHV: Esteban Arias (18 CP); Hector Cuadros (19 CP); Antonio Martinez (17 CP); Francisco Palencia (19 CP); Ramon Ramirez (10 add'l CP) ... MET: Jeff Parke (19 CP); Tim Regan (18 CP); Tim Ward (18 CP)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
The two teams meet for the second time ever in what will be the final game of the 2005 league campaign, their first meeting at The Home Depot Center.
Coaches record: Mo Johnston v CHV: first game ... Hans Westerhof vs. MET: P1 W0 L0 D1
ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Chivas USA 0 wins (0 shootout), 3 goals ... MetroStars 0 wins (0 shootout), 3 goals ... 1 draw
IN THE HOME DEPOT CENTER: first meeting
Chivas USA played their first match with a quartet of reinforcements and was within seconds of a first-ever road victory, before the MetroStars came back to snatch a wild 3-3 draw on Aug. 21 at Giants Stadium thanks to an Amado Guevara hat trick.
Guevara scored his first from the penalty spot after just five minutes when Eddie Gaven was tripped up in the area, but Chivas got three goals - all from new acquisitions - to take a dominant lead into the halftime break.
Mexican international Juan Francisco Palencia scored twice within five minutes in MLS debut to send Chivas in front. First, he tapped home a Douglas Sequeira flick header from a corner from close range (17), then he latched onto a mis-hit clearance and hammered home a first-time blast from outside the area.
Then Juan Pablo Garcia, another Mexican international, put Chivas two to the good with a wonderful goal, collecting a return pass from Arturo Torres and deftly chipping Tony Meola from the heart of the penalty area (39).But the MetroStars were handed a lifeline midway through the second half when Gaven was again hacked down in the area, and Guevara again converted from the spot, the first time in MetroStars history the club had scored two penalties in one game.
Yet when it seemed it wouldn't be enough, the Metros won a freekick at the top of the arc. Youri Djorkaeff slid a pass to the left to Guevara, and he hit a sublime curling strike inside the far post to share the points.
Here's Bob Bradley's team (4-1-3-2): Tony Meola - Tim Ward (Eric Quill 84), Jeff Parke, Ryan Suarez (Abbe Ibrahim 70), Tim Regan - Michael Bradley - Mike Magee (Danilo da Silva 70), Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara - Youri Djorkaeff, Sergio Galvan Rey.
Here's Hans Westerhof's team (3-3-1-3): Brad Guzan - Ezra Hendrickson, Ramon Ramirez (Isaac Romo 89), Armando Begines - Juan Pablo Garcia (Hector Cuadros 82), Douglas Sequeira, Orlando Perez - Arturo Torres (Jesus Ochoa 77), Francisco Mendoza, Antonio Martinez - Juan Francisco Palencia
The Rapids failed to take advantage of their games-in-hand in their bid to catch the Galaxy, as Chivas USA concluded their road campaign with a second positive result in a row.
The teams hit for goals three minutes apart. In the 33rd minute Alain Nkong fed Dedi Ben-Dayan who took the ball deep into the box on the left before firing a shot from a tight angle that went over 'keeper Sergio Garcia and into the far side netting. It was the Israeli international's fourth tally, all in the last four games.
Chivas quickly tied the game off a quick counterattack. Matt Taylor's hard cross from the left side of the Colorado area caromed off of Nat Borchers' thigh and wrong-footed 'keeper Byron Foss, whose dive was too late to prevent the own goal as it looped over him.
Chivas head coach Hans Westerhof made no changes to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 the Saturday before at Crew Stadium, the first victory on the road in club history.
Here's Westerhof's team (3-4-2-1): Sergio Garcia - Esteban Arias, Ezra Hendrickson, Orlando Perez - Jesus Ochoa, Ramon Ramirez (Armando Begines 71), Juan Francisco Palencia, Francisco Mendoza - Arturo Torres, Matt Taylor (Antonio Martinez 82) - Juan Pablo Garcia (Hector Cuadros 88)
"I was satisfied about the first half. I think we played well. Well organized and we had a lot of possibilities to score. We were a little bit unlucky . ..There were mistakes but it was a little bit unlucky," Westerhof said.
Chivas USA followed up a first-ever victory on the road with another point on their travels in their last game, settling for a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 5 in Denver. Chivas USA are still in last place in the Western Conference with 18 points from 31 matches, trailing fifth-place Real Salt Lake by just two points heading into the season finale.
In what has been a building project for next season for some time, Westerhof took some real positives from the two-game road trip where the club came away with four points.
"The problem in the second half was in the last 20 minutes, like most of the games. We didn't have the calm to play a game ...You have to control the game and we have to learn that. I think that we have a good future for next year but when you can win in Columbus and after you play here ... we're getting a lot of chances and I think that's a good start for next season."
The change in tactics was also a positive building block, especially with the way Chivas has tightened up in the back, allowing just a goal over the last 180 minutes as they were chasing the worst-ever defensive record by a club in MLS history.
"(W)e have to use ourselves to play the game and I think Matt and Pablo ... they're different kinds of players and we have to realize it more," Westerhof said. "First of all, I was satisfied with the way we solved problems on defense. We made it a little bit stronger in the center of the midfield ... We were pretty well organized and I was satisfied about it."
Chivas can still set some dubious records, but the recent performance has slowed the slide into ignominy. They have allowed 65 goals, and the single-season record for most goals allowed is 69 by Colorado in 1998. Also, Chivas has a goal-differential of minus-35; the Tampa Bay Mutiny's in 2001 was a record minus-36.
The building project for 2006 also begins with the season finale, where Westerhof is hoping for a show of support for the club.
"In the last game of the season, I think the most important thing is to show to our fans that it is worth it to come to a game next season, to buy a season ticket," he said. "And we know we disappoint them many times at Home Depot [Center]."
The MetroStars came in to the contest two points out of the final playoff spot, coming off two late collapses - including a 4-1 loss to United a week before at home - while United was riding a four-game winning streak.
But Sergio Galvan Rey - starting in place of the suspended Ante Razov - put the MetroStars in front in the 17th minute with a lovely goal. Amado Guevara chipped a ball over the United back line, and Galvan Rey perfectly brought it down inside the area before poking it past United 'keeper Nick Rimando.
United pulled level just before the halftime break in stoppage time, Jaime Moreno scoring his 15th goal of the season (one behind New England's Taylor Twellman for the Budweiser MLS Golden Boot) with a bit of free kick magic, whipping the ball inside of Tony Meola's right-hand post from the top of the restraining arc.
But midway through the second half the Metros hit for the eventual game-winner. Guevara found Seth Stammler on the right, and his second chance at a centering pass found Youri Djorkaeff unmarked in the heart of the area, and he swept the ball home first-time (68) to give Mo Johnston his first victory after taking over the head coaching duties.
The Wizards and MetroStars ended their season series all square, meaning that if the teams finish level in the Eastern Conference on points, the next tie-breaker is season goal difference, and the Wizards head into the final weekend of the campaign with a six-goal advantage. Both teams are on the road for their finales - the Wizards traveling to Texas to take on FC Dallas on Saturday night.
MetroStars interim head coach Mo Johnston made three changes to the team that settled for a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire at midweek. Michael Bradley and Ante Razov were suspended and Chris Leitch returned to the substitutes' bench, as Carlos Mendes, Mark Lisi and Sergio Galvan Rey all returned to the side.
Here's Johnston's team (3-4-1-2): Tony Meola - Jason Hernandez, Jeff Agoos, Carlos Mendes - Eddie Gaven, Tim Regan, Mark Lisi, Mike Magee (Seth Stammler 57) - Amado Guevara - Youri Djorkaeff, Sergio Galvan Rey (Jeff Parke 89)
"It was very important to come here to RFK today and get three points," said MetroStars interim head coach Mo Johnston. "The guys worked tremendously hard, especially on our back line, and we scored two very good goals. Galvan Rey's was a very tough goal, and Djorkaeff's finish at the end was magnificent."
The MetroStars came away with an incredibly vital victory and kept their bid alive for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, going to RFK Stadium and gaining a 2-1 victory against D.C. United last Saturday. The MetroStars are now tied with the Kansas City Wizards with 44 points from 31 matches, though the Wizards hold a slight advantage in tie-breakers if they remain level through the season finale this season.
The memory of the debacle against the Fire was foremost on the team's mind as Saturday's game crept into injury time and they clung to a one-goal lead.
"You're always worried," said Johnston, "because ... we were playing very well. We were trying to keep the ball. We were trying to exploit their back line as we did in Chicago. And then all of a sudden we give the ball away too easily in the midfield and they (can) capitalize. In Chicago, it was five minutes (injury time). This time, it was four minutes. You're always worried. But the way the players hung in there, the way the players tried hard for me, the three points were the most important part. Four minutes of extra time is always tough, but the guys worked hard for it."
With the crucial win in hand, the MetroStars' sights are set clearly on the lone remaining opponent, Chivas USA. And they know their fate can largely be determined by their own effort next Sunday in Los Angeles.
"I believe in these players ... hopefully we can (get a win at) Chivas," said Johnston. "It's all about what we do from this point on. When I came in here, I wasn't letting up because I believe in these players. I believed in the system that we had played, and I believed in getting three points here."
"We're in it, man," said goalkeeper Tony Meola to the Herald-News. "(Kansas City) has to go do Dallas and we have to go to Chivas. We've known our mission all along, win. At least we can say to ourselves that if we can win here we can win anywhere. We can go to Chivas and win, that's our mission."
United outshot the MetroStars 13-7, but Meola showed the kind of form the club was looking for in their bid to stay alive for the playoffs.
"Tony did great," said Eddie Gaven. "He made a couple point-blank saves. Big players step up in big games. ... The way that he keeps everything tight and organized, Tony is definitely one of the biggest leaders on this team." Johnston said: "Tony came up very big, in the first half especially ... but we expect a big-time goalkeeper to step up."
Red card and caution point accumulation suspensions collected in regular season games shall be served in a player's next regular season game.
Any suspensions for yellow card points earned in a player's last regular season game will not carry over into the MLS Cup Playoffs, or into the next league season.
However, any Player who receives a red card in his last game of the season (regular season or playoffs), will serve the one-game suspension during their next game (whether it's during the playoffs, championship game, or in the next regular season game of the following season).
All red card and caution point suspensions will, if necessary, follow a player to a new team.
Kansas City Wizards can clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with:
(a) A win vs. FC Dallas AND a MetroStars loss or tie vs. Chivas
(b) A win vs. FC Dallas AND a MetroStars win by six or less vs. Chivas USA
(c) A tie vs. FC Dallas AND a MetroStars tie or loss vs. Chivas USA
MetroStars can clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with:
(a) A win vs. Chivas USA AND a Kansas City loss or tie vs. FC Dallas
(b) A win vs. Chivas USA which would leave them with an equal to or higher overall goal differential if KC defeats FC Dallas.
(c) A tie vs. Chivas USA AND a KC loss to FC Dallas