The Red Bulls will surely be considered favorites as Chivas USA come to Red Bull Arena, but can the visitors pull off an upset?
New York Red Bulls: A mere four minutes into last Saturday’s match between the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy Thierry Henry floated past Donovan Ricketts and scored the evening’s opener. Coincidentally, the goal was the Gallic striker’s fourth of the season. Henry has transformed into the finisher expected of his colossal contract and New York has vaulted to the top of the Eastern Conference behind his attacking prowess.
Chivas USA: Chivas did not lose, and only dropped 4 points in the month of April. One bright spot to an otherwise diabolical match in their first tie of May, is that a 9 man Chivas held Real Salt Lake for 86 minutes before conceding. It was a gritty effort from a team that appears to be straightened out after a tough start.
New York: The jaunt to Canada has gotten little exposure, but New York fell to the Montreal Impact in a friendly on Wednesday. The winner came in the first half when Ali Gerba rose above the Red Bull back line and headed past Greg Sutton. The visitors were unable to find an equalizer despite a few opportunities in the second half. The defeat likely won’t matter match, but a victory after the draw against the Galaxy would have established some momentum going into Sunday’s tilt.
Chivas USA: Chivas have two players suspended. Marcos Mondaini will miss his first of four following his ankle destroying tackle on Javier Morales. Andrew Boyens will also be missing. Boyens should have seen straight red earlier in the match with RSL but saw yellow, and was booked a second time for an overaggressive shoulder. The result of this game may hinge on the play of their replacements.
New York: The absence of Teemu Tainio seriously affected the play of the Red Bulls in California. The stout holding midfield has commanded the center of Hans Backe’s 4-4-2, allowing the transition to a more possession-oriented style. While Mehdi Ballouchy didn’t perform terribly against the Galaxy, the replacement didn’t put the same stamp on the match as Tainio would have. If the Finn returns, New York can take a greater initiative against Chivas.
Chivas USA: Chivas showed that they can play strongly and defend with a 4-4-2 line up. A determined away mentality from a good road team could disrupt the Red Bulls. Defender Mariano Trujilo and striker Justin Braun were the substitutes last game, so that may be a decent indicator of who will fill in for the California side.
New York: The 2011 Red Bulls are still yet to lose at Red Bull Arena in Harrison. Only Real Salt Lake, yet to lose in Utah, can boast a better home record than New York. Conversely, Chivas has only won once away from the Home Depot Center. Expect this decided advantage to play out in favor of the hosts.
Chivas USA: A determined away mentality from a good road team could disrupt the Red Bulls’ attacking flow. Keeper Dan Kennedy has been playing well and Heath Pearce must shoulder the responsibility on the Chivas back line.
Avery Raimondo: The Red Bulls are currently leading the East; yet, the Columbus Crew and the Philadelphia Union are both nipping at the New York lead. While a slipup against the Galaxy was understandable, anything but the full three points against the Goats will not be acceptable. Robin Fraser has improved Chivas’ defense, but some combination of Backe’s strikers – Luke Rodgers, Juan Agudelo, and Henry – should find the back of the net.
David Katz: Simon Elliot and Luke Rodgers will receive double yellows. Red Bull will possess the ball and pick apart the scrappy competition. New York will take all three points at home 2-1.
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