Thursday, April 8, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Sizing Up Chivas USA

If the first two weeks have been a dream start for first-year Red Bulls coach Hans Backe (apart from a painful case of gallstones), then another managerial newbie, Martin Vasquez (above, left), has been having a bit of a nightmare at Chivas USA.

When the Red Bulls travel to Los Angeles this weekend, they will be facing a Chivas side desperate for points - and goals - after successive shutout losses to Colorado and Los Angeles Galaxy in their first two games of the season.  Though Chivas haven't exactly been hammered in either game - Colorado prevailed 1-0 on a cracking goal by Omar Cummings while Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan did them in in the Super Clasico - they haven't created much either.  Now they will be asked to break down what is becoming known around the league as a very disciplined and organized Red Bulls squad.

The most obvious off-season departure for Chivas is hard-nosed taskmaster Preki, who has brought his special brand of peace and love to Toronto and is ruffling feathers north of the border now.  Vasquez is, by all accounts, much more soft spoken than his predecessor (then again, who isn't?) and the mood around the team is looser.  However, with Jonathan Bornstein anchoring the backline (sliding over from left back to central defense) and Sacha Kljestan continuing to plug away in midfield, some big questions remain:
  • Who will step up in the center of the park as a holding midfielder, with Jesse Marsch having retired and Paulo Nagamura departed for Mexico?
  • Can the Goats get consistent production from their forwards? Maykel Galindo has struggled with injuries and form.  Loanees Maicon Santos and Jesús Padilla will need to pick up some of the goalscoring load if Chivas are to compete in a very tough Western Conference.
  • Will new players such as Osael Romero and Michael Umaña step forward this season?  
  • Now that the designated player route has been opened up again for Chivas (remember, the Red Bulls held their previous DP slot), will ownership make a splash in Mexico and try to get more butts in seats at the HDC?
Failure to get something from Saturday's match would leave Chivas reeling, having earned no points from three straight virtual home games at The Home Depot Center. For the Red Bulls, a victory would put to rest the notion that the Seattle result - which broke an amazing string of road futility - was a one-off fluke.  There is a lot on the line for both clubs, but arguably more for Chivas.
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