UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Last year, the Red Bulls struggled to play well against Chivas USA, having difficulty in breaking down the Western Conference side’s midfield and tight, compact defense. It’s something that’ll be on RBNY’s mind when they travel to LA to face Chivas on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Galavisión).
It was the Rojiblancos who handed New York their first loss of the season last year after a 3-0-0 start to the 2010 campaign, a 2-0 decision at the Home Depot Center in early April. Two months later, the Red Bulls struggled at home against the Goats but pulled out a 1-0 win.
The struggles carried over to this year when the Red Bulls lost to Chivas USA on May 15, a tough 3-2 home loss. It was a defeat marred by sloppy play from New York and Chivas USA doing well on set pieces.
“They are a good team and we seem to struggle them when we play them,” Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “They are technical, like to play on the ball — keep the ball. A good team, not very physical but they play well.”
Part of the problem last year when the Red Bulls faced against Saturday night’s opponent was the style Chivas USA liked to implement. Using a diamond midfield much like New York’s, Chivas USA were willing to play compact, tight defense and force the Red Bulls to the flanks. At times, New York struggled to break down the Goats defense and the attack stalled in the offensive third.
This year, the Chivas USA midfield diamond has taken on the look and feel of Real Salt Lake, arguably the best midfield shape in the league. It is no surprise; the team’s new coach, Robin Fraser, is a former assistant coach at Real Salt Lake and his team is taking on the flair and deft passing of one of MLS’ most dominant sides.
“They pass the ball very well and hold possession, I think maybe like we do,” Lindpere said. “We saw in May that they can be good on set pieces. We played better that game, but they took their chances to walk away with the win.”
On Thursday, head coach Hans Backe said that all season long he views his Red Bulls as the “team to beat” in MLS but he admits that New York has struggled to play to their full capacity and — most importantly — have not been consistent.
“We feel that we just need to perform better,” Backe said. “We need to be more consistent. We need to win [the] tight games.’’
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer