Chivas USA look to put Wednesday's tough defeat behind them, as well as cross another opponent off the 2013 schedule, when they host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (2 pm, MLS Live/Tickets certainly available). Chivas are on short rest, of course, but they didn't have to travel this week, while the Red Bulls drew 0-0 with the Philadelphia Union at home last weekend. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the Red Bulls are in third place in the Eastern Conference, but the weight of expectations makes it seem like they are doing much worse at this point. Wouldn't that be a lovely situation for Chivas to be in?
Like their last opponent, Chivas have been on a good run of form against the Red Bulls, as they went unbeaten in three matches across the 2011-12 seasons. Whether that means that New York is going to break the streak, as FC Dallas did midweek, or if Chivas can get yet another result on an opponent that tends to struggle on the West Coast, remains to be seen. We'll find out at the game of course.
In the meantime, be sure to check out the Three Questions feature with Matt Coyne from Saturday to catch up on what's happening with the Red Bulls, as well as a bonus interview with Dan Feuerstein on the state of soccer with the opponents and New York in general from earlier today.
Time to preview the match!
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 18 points (4-14-6), 9th place in Western Conference, 18th place overall; Goal Difference: -22 (21/43); Last five matches: L-D-L-L-W
New York Red Bulls: 39 points (11-8-6), 3rd place in Eastern Conference, 5th place overall; Goal Difference: 5 (36/31); Last five matches: D-L-W-W-D
Key Match-up: Chivas midfield vs. New York midfield
I think this is a very interesting game for both teams, since they both have the potential to play well, play poorly, and slog their way through a warm August day in Carson. The question is whether or not one of the teams will outplay the other, or if they will stick to the recent formula of playing a stalemate. While the Red Bulls are doing far better in the standings and have much more talent than Chivas, the recent history has to be considered part of the story when pondering this match.
But beyond that, let's get down to brass tacks. Chivas coach Jose Luis Real has said the past couple weeks that he's going with a youth policy in the final weeks of the season, to give young players a chance to accumulate some minutes (of course, most of the team are youngsters, so....ok). I think the biggest problem has been the way Oswaldo Minda has been completely marginalized on this team, something I know I write about at least three times a week at this point. Last year against the Red Bulls, he got in Kenny Cooper's head and nearly drew that red card he was angling for all season.
Now? The d-mids will be Edgar Mejia and Carlos Borja, a defender, most likely. Without that bite in the middle, I don't think it's going to work, but it can be argued that the bigger concern will likely be on the flanks. Dax McCarty will probably dominate the middle, as his game is more like Mejia's than Minda's, although he can make a tackle much better than Chore. But more often than not, Eric Alexander and Jonny Steele have been good on the wings, and will mean that Chivas' wide players, in the midfield and at fullback, will likely have their hands full in this match, and will need to be aware of New York's ability to strike quickly, especially on counterattacks.
Why Chivas will win this match: Well, on paper, I'd say that looks unlikely, but this team can spring a surprise every so often. I think the positive assessments we gave Real initially upon his taking charge of the team have died down, especially with three losses in the last four games, but with the signs of life from the Goats' attack in recent weeks, with Erick Torres, Carlos Alvarez, and Bryan de la Fuente picking up goals, if the defense can keep it's act together, and if the team doesn't self-destruct with more red cards, then it's certainly possible. Plus, the Red Bulls do struggle on the West Coast, and that coupled with their historical inconsistency means Chivas obviously have a shot.
Why the Red Bulls will win this match: Despite the "on paper" situation, they aren't really favored in this game by most of the experts, meaning they have considerable priors to overcome. That could prove to be motivation for them to break their duck. It could also mean little, for a team that seems to have the MLS reputation equivalent to the crowd in high school that wanted to be cool at all costs, even if it means ignoring grades/wins, friends/teammates, you name it. So we'll see. Still, they know they ought to beat Chivas, and with Tim Cahill enjoying a much-improved second season, he's the kind of player who can snap his team out of their collective ennui and sometimes even drag them to victory. Chivas don't do well with that kind of spirit, and would be smart to mark him well (without picking up a red card, of course).
Why this game will end in a draw: This has been the preferred result in the last two meetings between these teams, and again, they both seem to play each other to stalemates pretty well. Add in the fact that the rhythm for the players may be off just a touch with it being a 2 pmish kickoff, and we could see that trademark brand of ugly soccer that ought to offer more. I think a draw for Chivas would be better than a loss, and it would make sure Chivas are better than their low-water mark for points in a season, which would be something of an accomplishment, let's face it.
Notable absences (Note: No game notes were released ahead of this game, making the injury picture pretty sketchy):
Chivas: Tristan Bowen (suspended), Gabriel Farfan (suspended), Daniel Antunez (knee), Caleb Calvert (foot), Tim Melia (back)
Red Bulls: Heath Pearce (hip)