HANOVER, N.J. – The biggest two-game series in franchise history awaits the New York Red Bulls, a trip to play storied side Chivas de Guadalajara on Wednesday night to kick off the semifinals of the 2018 Concacaf Champions League (10 pm ET | UDN, go90.com).
It is a matchup that the Red Bulls readily admit to being excited about, even as midfielder Sean Davis acknowledges it will “be a battle.” Head coach Jesse Marsch said on Friday that he’s watched every Chivas match in the Champions League as well as several of their league matches.
The Red Bulls are coming off a series of impressive results in the tournament, beating Olimpia in the Round of 16 and then two very strong legs against Tijuana to book their place in the semifinals. It is the first time in club history that the Red Bulls have advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League.
“We know them very well. A really well-coached team, a very unique team in terms of the way that they play and some very talented players,” Marsch said.
“That team hasn’t done well in their season but every game that they’ve played in has been really close and they’re a really good team, we know that. It will be a massive challenge.”
First on the agenda for the Red Bulls was a league match, a 4-3 loss at Orlando City on Saturday afternoon. The Red Bulls did not return to New Jersey after the Orlando match, having spent the last two days in Orlando training before leaving on Monday afternoon for Mexico. Marsch said that between the heat of being in Orlando, and two days in Mexico at elevation his team should be able to adjust for a tough away leg. Chivas' home stadium, Estadio Akron, sits just below a mile high.
It will likely be a near complete overhaul for Wednesday’s match as Marsch rested almost all of his starters in the weekend match.
Despite struggling in league play, Chivas have done well in the Champions League, taking their quarterfinal series 3-1 on aggregate over the Seattle Sounders. This included a 3-0 result at Estadio Akron in the second leg in what was a dominating performance.
Seattle sat back and absorbed a lot of pressure from Chivas for the first half before eventually cracking and breaking as the unrelenting pressure from the home side finally broke through.
“Down in Guadalajara it is always going to be tough. You’re going to have a team that is good with the ball that likes to press you, counter-press. Get after you, that’s physical,” Marsch said.
“In their building, [they] go after the game and attack. They really like to attack. We have to be very, I think, very smart in how we press them and how we defend against them. But we’re also going to be very aggressive to have them to make them have to deal with us. I think, still finding a way on the road to be aggressive is a key for us.”
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