Rest in peace, Chivas USA. Once a playoff team full of Major League Soccer stars like Sacha Kljestan, Brad Guzan and Jesse Marsh, the sister club of one of Mexico’s most famous clubs, has experienced well-publicized issues on and off the pitch. The New York Red Bull’s home game this Sunday will be the final regular season match-up versus Chivas before its re-branding in 2015.
Of course, the chance always exists of the opposite coast teams meeting in the US Open Cup or there one say, MLS Cup Final, but that is unlikely. Past games between the sides brought notable moments like a former hero returning and an embarrassing, deflating loss late last year. Will the Red Bulls end history with a victory, which would be their first of 2014?
Pregame quote analysis:
Head coach Mike Petke on how he knew better about Lloyd Sam –
“I said this a couple of times in the past couple of months about how I was raving about Lloyd going into last preseason and then I remember sitting back and Lloyd really didn’t come in the right frame of mind or physically ready and guys like Robin [Fraser] who was new to the team and Andy [Roxburgh] and these guys saying ‘when is he going to become what you were talking about?’” Petke recalled. “Then, he did towards the middle, end of the season.”
What Petke actually meant –
- “The fans say I am the second coming of Jesus Christ himself, and you know what, I’m starting to believe it. I tell Robin and Andy all the time, ‘Na-na-na-nanana, I told you so.’ What? You remember me denying that Sam was a guaranteed starter before last season? That wasn’t me. No more questions.”
Thierry Henry on playing his former team Arsenal in a summer friendly –
“It goes without saying that hosting Arsenal at Red Bull Arena will be a special moment for me both on a professional and personal level,” Henry said. “The club is in my heart and this will be another terrific chapter in my relationship with Arsenal Football Club. Along with my teammates, I am excited to host Arsenal in New York – one of the greatest cities in the world – and hope that Red Bulls and Arsenal fans will be able to enjoy the match.”
What Henry actually meant –
- “I literally cannot shut up about how much I love Arsenal. For me, I could barely give two [explicit] about the Red Bulls; I just love living in New York. That is my opinion, for me. My beard is itchy.”
Top 3 story-lines/questions fans may be pondering:
- Where will Tim Cahill play? The Australian, while versatile, is a positional conundrum much like his American equivalent Clint Dempsey is for Seattle. Coaches do not know where to play them necessarily, but they know their presence from the start is necessary. Against Vancouver and Chicago, Cahill started as a forward to mixed results. Last week’s match in Chicago saw the designated player play the target role well, but it is unknown how much the team lost without his defensive work in midfield overall. Henry dropped deep, helped dominate possession and made plays, however, the Red Bulls only managed one goal off a set-piece. Perhaps inserting Peguy Luyindula into central midfield will enable Henry and Cahill to combine more in the final third, which is related to the next point…
- Will Luyindula start? The veteran Frenchman looked dangerous and dynamic in his one start and two substitute appearances this season. His switch from forward to midfield was a refreshing change for not only Peguy but the whole team. He possesses a skill-set that not many players have on the current squad. Expecting to dominate a weakened Chivas team at home, his introduction to the starting lineup in place of Eric Alexander is a likelihood.
- Sekagya versus Armando. Off-season Spanish signing, Armando, earned the starting center back position alongside Jamison Olave versus Colorado. His aggressive style of play controversially led him to receive a one game suspension served last weekend. In his place, Ibrahim Sekagya impressed against the Fire’s attack. The Ugandan leads the team with 2.5 average tackles in his only two appearances, while Armando holds a significant team lead of an average of 9.5 clearances in his two games. Petke and his staff have a difficult decision to make for Sunday.
- Chivas USA comes into the game with a better record than New York at 1-1-1. They began the season with two home games, a 3-2 victory versus Chicago and a 1-1 tie against Vancouver. The LA team recorded its first loss in Dallas, 3-1, this past weekend.
- At the moment, Chivas head coach, Wilmer Cabrera, is dealing with many injuries in core areas of the field. Center backs, Bobby Burling and Andrew Jean-Baptiste, are both likely out due to injury, while defensive midfielder, Osvaldo Minda, went down with a hamstring problem in the first half of game at Dallas.
- Many players are being plugged into positions they are inexperienced at. Eric Avila, normally an attacking midfielder/winger, is playing at right back, while Eriq Zavaleta, on-loan from Seattle, is partnering Carlos Bocanegra in central defense. The second-year alum from Indiana has not played defense since his early days in college, as Seattle deemed him a forward in his rookie season. New York could, and most likely should, capitalize on the unfamiliarity within the Chivas back-line.
- Whoever partners Olave must be wary of Erick Torres, who is part of a three-way tie of the league lead in goals with three tallies. Two of his goals have come from the penalty spot, however, he scored from the run-of-play against Dallas. His success in front of net is partially and indirectly contributed to by off-season trade, Mauro Rosales, from Seattle. Rosales stands alone on top of the assist chart with a league-leading three.
- In their one away game so far, Chivas recorded 42 percent of possession, a 69 percent pass succession and 43 percent of aerial duels won, according to whoscored.com. Also in that game, Dallas had eight out of their 10 total shots inside Chivas’s 18 yard box, according to the same source.
Predicted starting lineup: Luis Robles; Richard Eckersley, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, Roy Miller; Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Peguy Luyindula, Johnny Steele; Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry.
Predicted score: 3-1 home win (New York: Cahill x2, Henry; Chivas: Torres)