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CHIVAS USA: Playoffs? It's possible

CARSON -- Chivas USA fell out of Major League Soccer's playoff chase with a seven-game winless streak at the start of the stretch drive, and its season could be done by Tuesday, with the wrong combination of results.

The Goats (8-12-11), who Sunday take on the Philadelphia Union at Home Depot Center, sit 14th in the overall standings, five points from the final spot with just three games to play. They would need to vault past at least four rivals -- all with as many or more games remaining -- to climb into the top 10.

It's doable, and so Chivas believes.

“We're mathematically still alive,” defender Ante Jazic said after last week's 3-0 rout of Toronto FC gave the Goats their first victory since Aug. 6. “All of our games are at home, so there's no reason why we can't win every game. If we keep playing like we did tonight, with the same focus, I think we will be fine.”

There is no reason Chivas can't win every game -- even against Philly and, in the Galaxy and Seattle, MLS's top two clubs -- and that's the starting point for any realistic chance it has to make it into the postseason.

Three wins would give Chivas 44 points. Six clubs -- the Galaxy (64), Seattle (57), Real Salt Lake (51), FC Dallas (46), Sporting Kansas City (45) and Colorado (45) -- have already surpassed that total (L.A., Seattle and RSL have clinched playoff berths), and seven others can do so.

But let's say Philly (43), Houston (43), Columbus (41) and D.C. United (38) skidded to the finish. If ...

  • The Union lose to the Goats, then drop their last three, against Seattle, Toronto FC and New York ...

  • Houston falls at Portland and against the Galaxy in its final two matches ...

  • Columbus drops Sunday's clash with D.C. United, then gets beaten or ties New England and Chicago ...

  • D.C. United end their campaign with no more than two points from games at Vancouver and home against Chicago, Portland and Sporting ...

Chivas would leap over all four and into the postseason. In doing so, they could also race past Portland (37) and Chicago (37) -- like D.C., they're just outside the top 10 -- and maybe 10th-place New York (40), too.

Seventh place is within reach, although 10th would be just fine.

But lose to Philly, with Columbus beating or tying D.C. United and New York winning Tuesday over the Galaxy, and Chivas is eliminated from the race.

WORTH NOTING: Jazic (Canada), defender Michael Umaña (Costa Rica) and forward Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela) depart after the game for international duty. Canada has World Cup qualifiers Friday against St. Lucia and Oct. 11 against Puerto Rico. Costa Rica takes on Brazil in a friendly Friday. Venezuela opens its World Cup qualifying campaign Friday at Ecuador and Oct. 11 at home against Argentina. ... Philadelphia leads the series, 2-0-1, after a 3-2 victory in this season's first meeting, June 25 in Chester, Pa., on Danny Mwanga's 82nd-minute goal. Umaña gave Chivas a first-half lead, and Justin Braun pulled the Goats even in the 77th. ... Nick LaBrocca, who leads the Goats in scoring (8 goals, 6 assists), is the only player to have started all 31 Chivas league games. ... Michael Lahoud and Zarek Valentin face suspensions with their next yellow cards.

MISSING: Midfielder Ben Zemanski is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. ... Central midfielder Paulo Nagamura (broken foot) is out. ... Defender Heath Pearce (hamstring tear) has been downgraded to questionable. He returned in the Sept. 21 draw at D.C. United, then was held out of last week's victory over Toronto FC and was working with a trainer this week.

THE OPPONENT

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Head coach

  • Former Polish national-teamer Peter Nowak captained the Chicago Fire to the MLS Cup title in 1998 as a first-year club, and he went into coaching in 2004, winning another MLS Cup crown as a rookie boss with D.C. United. He was Bob Bradley's top assistant with the U.S. national team and the U.S. U-23/Olympic team head coach in 2007-09, departing to take charge of the expansion Union last season.

Three key players

  • French midfielder/forward Sebastien Le Toux has exquisite touch and vision, and he scores and creates for others goals of stunning quality. After a slow start, he's been in superb form, scoring nine goals in the last eight games.

  • Midfielder Freddy Adu was a star at 14 -- and not nearly ready for the acclaim and unfair expectations that greeted his first years as a pro. After four years in Europe, he's back -- just 22 and looking to solidify his spot in a starting lineup and with the U.S. national team.

  • Colombian defender Carlos Valdes has in his first season emerged as one of MLS' premier center backs, pivotal to the defense-focused Union's success.

Current form/prospects

  • Philly is battling for the Eastern Conference title, beyond what was expected in year two, but that's the kind of work Nowak can do. The Union was on top a few months back, then went through a 16-game stretch, from the end of May until mid-September, in which they won only twice, over Chivas and lowly New England. Le Toux's return to form has given the attack some punch, and they've sandwiched victories over fellow Eastern contenders Columbus and D.C. United around a draw with Sporting Kansas City, which sits atop the conference, two points ahead of the Union.

Local connections

  • Center back Danny Califf (Orange) played at Orange High School and started 113 league games (and won an MLS Cup) with the Galaxy from 2000 to 2004. ... Midfielder Kyle Nakazawa (Palos Verdes Estates) played at Peninsula High School, for Irvine Strikers and at UCLA. ... Midfielder Amobi Okugo played one year at UCLA before turning pro. ... Rookies Michael and Gabriel Farfan (Wildomar) spent some time at Cal State Fullerton. ... Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi started 20 games for the Galaxy in 2009.

Missing

  • No. 1 goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon (fractured finger) and No. 3 goalkeepeer Thorne Holder (concussion) are out. So is rookie forward Levi Houapeu (sprained ankle). ... Miglioranzi (inflamed knee) and defender Sheanon Williams (intercostal strain) are questionable. ... Mwanga (hip flexor strain) and forward Veljko Paunovic (calf strain) are probable.

THE GAME

At Home Depot Center (Carson), 5 p.m.

TV: Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22

Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)

Referee: Michael Kennedy