New York Red Bulls Head Coach Mike Petke summed up the opposition on Friday when he said Chivas USA is a “young hard working team, organized, run hard and fast. Anticipate them coming in organized.”
The rain that had been falling on the way over from the parking lot had stopped, so before the game the grounds crew turned on the sprinklers. The arena was thinly attended and the wet fans stared at the profusion of water. While it seemed like pointless overkill, it was just the beginning of a match where the words would take on new depth.
At first the game seemed high speed, conducted with an energy almost impossible to sustain. Peguy Luyindula, in his second start of the season, charged at the Chivas keeper, forcing him to quickly take a long kick. Then minutes later, Thierry Henry did the same, and you thought that this was their game, that all the talk on Friday had fired them into a frenzy. You saw the strategy. If Chivas think fast, force them to think faster. If they are organized, disrupt their flow. Attack, attack, attack. But for every strategy, there is a counter. Offside, offside, offside. Had the Red Bulls scored early on, it would have been very difficult for Chivas to take back the momentum in the arena. They didn’t.
There is little doubt that these two players are very dangerous as a scoring tandem. Rosales is leading Chivas in assists with three and Torres is the team’s scoring leader, now with four goals. You knew that they were going to have to be neutralized for the Red Bulls to win. What you didn’t expect is that they would have such an easy answer to all that unwanted attention. To draw fouls and further, to appear to embellish. The game soon lost its energy and became became bogged down in the middle of the pitch, using the field’s width rather than its length. When Torres put Chivas in the lead from a penalty kick, the attitude in the arena turned bitter.
The teams left the pitch at the end of the first half with Chivas 1-0 up. In the second half Chivas sought to defend that advantage, and played to keep the score static. They defended strongly from the start, but a more organized Red Bull team created several chances that found gaps in the Chivas lines. At times Dan Kennedy, the Chivas keeper, was forced into making very good saves, and at times the threat dissipated with imprecise shots. Chivas wanted to slow to game down, while the Red Bulls team recaptured the energy from the beginning of the game, and the crowd came back to them with a roar that drowned out the clap of thunder from the storm that rained down on the pitch. But the team was getting nowhere.