Back to your corners, gentlemen. After Chivas' 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls in Wednesday's first leg, the teams need to go see the cut-man and get set for the second round next week.
If you couldn't tell by the boxing motif, it was a physical encounter. By the end, referee John Pitti had shown five yellow cards, two of them to Red Bulls center back Aurelien Collin, and whistled for 38 fouls. He'd also needed to break up several scuffles.
The irony may be that while Tuesday's first leg between Toronto FC and Club America will be remembered as a match that had more animosity because of the halftime skirmish and America manager Miguel Herrera's allegations against the Toronto police and the referee, it was Wednesday's match that got uglier on the field.
The Red Bulls came to Guadalajara looking to slow down Chivas' attacking play and were able to do so for most of the night. The exception was Chivas' goal, which came off a mistake from teenager Tyler Adams. The midfielder was looking to start a break but instead gifted Rodolfo Pizarro a chance to counterattack. He took that chance and set up Isaac Brizuela for the only tally of the night.
Otherwise, Pizarro found himself frustrated. While Chivas registered two more shots on target, neither troubled Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
"We weren’t able to play our best game. It was a game where there were a lot of long balls," Pizarro said. "We didn’t take advantage of being a man up, but at the end of the day the result is good, we have the advantage and now we’re going to give everything we have up there"
While Chivas is going to come with everything, the Red Bulls will be missing pieces. Collin is out the second leg after being sent off (he would've missed it anyway for his first yellow card), while Alex Muyl also will miss out because of yellow-card accumulation. Chivas came into the match shorthanded, with Jesus Sanchez in the midst of a long-term absence and Javier "La Chofis" Lopez.
And, yes, there were some shoving matches and words exchanged as well. Jair Pereira and Tim Parker both showed off their size in separate breakdowns during the second half. Ultimately, these teams took their cues from their managers, though. Clearly Jesse Marsch and Matias Almeyda both understand how they want their teams to play and how the other team will play. The Red Bulls will need to score at home, in contrast to how they toppled Tijuana in the first leg and defended that lead in the second. Still, don't look for things to be wildly different.
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"We’ll continue to play the way that we’ve been playing. We eliminated their chances, outside of the goal I felt like they didn’t have much," Robles said after the match. "I know that when they come and play at our place it’s going to be even more difficult for them to create. For us, we’ve got to create chances, we’ve got to get some goals but obviously continue to limit their opportunities."
It should be a good, clean fight, but it's going to be a feisty affair with both teams throwing punches (hopefully only metaphorically) at Red Bull Arena. The fight is in the balance. Someone must land the knockout blow to get into the final.