(Chivas celebrates after the final whistle – Photos by Jason Schott)
The Red Bulls and Chivas de Guadalajara played to a scoreless draw on Tuesday night in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Semfinal, and by virtue of their 1-0 win in the first leg last week, Chivas will be moving on to the Final.
Incredibly, Chivas won this one with superb defense, as they did not give an inch. If it looked at times that the Red Bulls had an opening, there were as many as three defenders there to cover.
The Chivas goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota did a tremendous job, as he played aggressively and was in complete command of the game much the way his counterpart, Luis Robles of the Red Bulls, does.
The Red Bulls did everything but score, as they held advantages in every category over Chivas, 20-1 in shots, 9-0 shots on target, 6-3 corners, and 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent on possession.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of not being able to score despite holding advantages in all those categories, “Yeah, first of all, I want to congratulate Chivas for getting the final. I think Matías Almeyda is a great coach and he’s done a great job with his team and his team fought hard and for them to come here and hang on the way they did shows a lot of character about their group, so congratulations to them and we wish them good luck.
“Yeah, it’s almost impossible, right, the way the game plays out. It’s almost impossible that you can somehow not find a way to score a goal and find a way to be so dangerous around the goal all night long but not make that final play. Yeah, it’s obviously disappointing but you know, I told the team after the game that I was very proud of them, very proud of them. I thought they established themselves in the series as the better team, a very good team. And that this group has a really bright future.
“I told them I would go down swinging with them, any day, any day. It’s a bitter pill to swallow right now. We had our hopes very high that we can push it over the hump and really, you know, make a run at this all the way to the end. It hurt to fall short but we’ll use it the right way.”
The Red Bulls came out firing and their first big chance came in the seventh minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips send a nice pass to Tim Parker, who just missed curling one inside the right post. On the ensuing corner kick, Kemar Lawrence fired a blast just wide of the left post. Lawrence hit the deck afterwards as his feet got tangled with a Chivas defender, but he would stay in the game.
In the 19th minute, Daniel Royer came down the right side of the box, and fired a cross that got by the Chivas goalkeeper Cota, but it was a little high for a sliding Lawrence to corral by the left post.
In the second half, Derrick Etienne fired a shot from 20 yards out over the crossbar.
In the 91st minute, it looked like Aaron Long got a header by Cota, but he got a hand on it at the last second to preserve the lead.
Marsch said of Chivas taking that goal they got in the first leg at home and keeping it in the back pocket and try to defend it all night long, “Well, we felt strongly that we could — we put a game plan in place that we felt like we would be in their end a lot; that we would be creating a lot of set pieces; that we would have the ball in the box a lot and that we would be able to get behind at moments and create chances, and we did everything that we tried to accomplish. And, we tried to also make sure that while we were very aggressive and attacked, that we weren’t going to give much up the other way and we accomplished that, as well. Then we threw in some different set piece ideas and we accomplished almost everything we wanted to accomplish except finding a way to get the goal. It’s one mistake back at Guadalajara that cost us the series, and really for it to come down to that one play, it’s incredible. Yeah, feel really good about our group, though.”
It was nearly a sellout, as the attendance was 23,623, with a heavy presence from Chivas fans.
Marsch said of the crowd, “Yeah, I mean, you knew — listen, when you play here, I’ve been through this enough. I helped coach the 2011 Gold Cup in L.A., and you want to talk about a Mexican crowd. There might have been — in a 100,000 people, there might have been 400 Americans.
“The sport is big in México and there’s so many Mexican Americans that love their clubs here in the States. So you know, you wind up having a lot of places here in the States where you feel like our at a road match.
“I thought our fans that did come, though, were really loud, and especially in the first half when they were down there, and play after play after play, you know, they were supporting the team in a big way.
“So you know, I thought it was a real spirited match, two teams that went after it. The crowd was into it. I thought it was great.”
Chivas moves on to the Champions league Final, where they will take on Toronto, who beat Club America of Mexico in their semifinal matchup.
Robles recorded his third shutout of SCCL and fifth of the year. Of Robles’ five clean sheets, four have come at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls return to MLS play this Saturday at 1 pm against Montreal at Red Bull Arena.