Ramon Ramirez

Rongen sticking with winning lineup

When Real Salt Lake steps onto the artificial pitch at Rice-Eccles Stadium Wednesday night, the opponent should look rather familiar.

Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake in what could be considered Expansion Cup II. The Red-and-White will field the same starting lineup today as it did on May 7, when it also picked up its first-ever Major League Soccer victory.

It just makes sense to stick with the same starting 11, Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen said.

"You've got to develop a lineup especially with an expansion team, it's hard to get players on the field and make them a unit," Rongen said. "It's important that you try and get an 11 that you try and stick with and we're going into our third straight game with the same lineup so that helps us with continuation."

If form holds, the following lineup will face Real Salt Lake again: Brad Guzan in goal; Armando Begines, Alfonso Loera, Ryan Suarez and Ezra Hendrickson in the back; Orlando Perez, Douglas Sequeira and Ramon Ramirez in the midfield; and Francisco Mendoza, Thiago Martins and Hector Cuadros up front.

This lineup presents the most flexibility on both sides. Ramirez moved up to the attacking midfield role against Real Salt Lake two weeks ago and the offense seemed to produce more quality scoring chances. Still, the offensive output is not quite to Rongen's liking.

"We're an attacking squad. Unfortunately we haven't put too many goals on the board," he said. "We try to go forward with Hector Cuadros and Francisco Mendoza, Thiago, Ramon, we have capable players that can handle the attack for us and give us some goals."

Chivas USA has either been shutout or scored just a single goal in all but one match this season. Still, with players such as Arturo Torres, Matt Taylor and Isaac Romo available off the bench, Rongen has options should the starters falter. Also, Francisco Gomez will be available for the first time since the season opener. Gomez, who sprained his knee half an hour into the opening match against D.C. United, played all 90 minutes in Chivas USA's reserve match Sunday.

While Chivas USA has seemingly plenty of players to choose from, Real Salt Lake will be missing several starters. Leslie Fitzpatrick and Marlon Rojas will be with Trinidad & Tobago's national team for a friendly against Peruvian side Alianza Lima while Jason Kreis will serve a one-match suspension.

One factor which Rongen said could go Real's way is the playing surface at Rice-Eccles Stadium: Field Turf. While Real Salt Lake has experience playing on the synthetic surface, Chivas USA does not. The club practiced this week on an artificial-turf field at The Home Depot Center which, interestingly enough, sits some 50 feet from the Galaxy's training field.

"It is one of the few fields in this league that will clearly be in (the opponent's) favor," Rongen said. "That might be a factor (that evens the game out)."

Still, Rongen said both sides have plenty to play for.

"They're going to come in looking for revenge. We're going to come in with the mentality that we beat them once, we can beat them again," he said. "It should be an interesting game."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.