Chivas USA versus Columbus preview
More than two months ago, the Columbus Crew suffered consecutive losses, including a defeat at Chivas USA. They haven't lost since.
The defending MLS Cup champions look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine Sunday afternoon when they host suddenly slumping Chivas.
Columbus (3-2-7) picked up its first shutout and first road win of the season last Saturday, beating Kansas City 2-0. Reigning league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored twice as the Crew won despite playing without Alejandro Moreno, Duncan Oughton and Frankie Hejduk, who were on international duty. Columbus also lost reigning defender of the year Chad Marshall in the 51st minute due to a red card.
"If you'd have told me that before the game, I'd have said, 'I'm buying the champagne after the game,'" said Columbus coach Robert Warzycha, whose team improved to 3-0-5 since a 2-1 loss at Chivas USA on April 5.
Marshall will serve his one-game suspension Sunday, while Hejduk is questionable due to a left groin strain that has sidelined him since May 17. Moreno should be available, but Oughton is still with the New Zealand national team.
Defender Andy Iro, who hasn't played since he strained his left quad in the April loss to Chivas, is questionable Sunday for the Crew. Iro scored in the 37th minute against Chivas to tie the match, but picked up a red card in the 54th minute due to a late tackle.
Eduardo Lillingston scored the game-winner in the 50th minute for Chivas, which pushed its record to 3-0 for the first time in franchise history. Chivas (8-3-3), however, has now dropped two of its last three and is 1-2-2 since winning three in a row April 25-May 9. Chivas failed to extend its Western Conference lead over Houston as it fell to the Dynamo 1-0 on Wednesday.
"When you get behind, it's a tough place to play, small stadium, small field, and they did a good job defending us," said coach Preki, a former teammate of Warzycha's at Everton FC. "We had way too many guys tonight with a sub performance, especially after the 30th minute."
Chivas managed just one shot on goal -- a 20-yarder in the 83rd minute by Maykel Galindo.
"They did their job, they had their goal scoring opportunity," Galindo said. "They possessed the ball, and we tried to tighten it up to get an equalizer, and we couldn't do it."
Andy Gruenebaum will be in net for Columbus, which defeated Chivas 4-3 on April 12, 2008, for its first home win in this series. Gruenebaum is 3-0-4 with a 1.14 goals-against average since taking over for the injured William Hesmer. Chivas' Zach Thornton, meanwhile, is among the league leaders with a 0.71 GAA.
Chivas USA will play without defender Jonathan Bornstein and midfielder Sacha Kljestan on Sunday due to national team commitments.
Midfielder Brian Carroll could return for Columbus after missing the past two matches with a separated right shoulder. "I'm trying to get back out there and get used to it again and get to the point where I can help the team out when it needs me," he told the Crew's official Web site.