Beware The Trap! Red Bulls Can Not Afford To Overlook Chivas USA

It has been a busy week for the New York Red Bulls. Saturday marked a barn burning tie in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, widely regarded as the best team in the league. Wednesday, they traveled to Canada and played MLS Ambassadors for the soon to be 19th franchise to the league, the Montreal Impact. By Friday, they were back on the grind, preparing for this Sunday’s fixture against Chivas USA.

With the team traversing North America like Johnny Appleseed, you can expect some weary legs, tired minds and disoriented bodies. If that isn’t bad enough, they will be facing one of the weakest teams in the league; a team one can easily overlook.

In sports, this kind of atmosphere manifests one of the most dreaded scenarios of all; the “trap game.” And if the Red Bulls aren’t ready, they may fall victim to it.

The Galaxy game was an exclamation point for the team; a clear sign to all that the New York Red Bulls have arrived. It was a major marker in this wave of momentum the Red Bulls have established early this season. Through their play, New York has made believers out of even their staunchest critics. Thierry Henry in particular has been every bit this teams captain, helping turnaround what seemed to be an inept attack early in the season into one of the most feared units in the league.

Henry went the full 90 against L.A. and was contractually obligated to participate for at least a half while playing the Impact. Juan Agudelo, meanwhile, entered the game against the Galaxy as a last minute sub, but managed to play a full 90 against Montreal. A well rested Luke Rodgers will be a focal point for the team if they are to gain three points against Chivas, and the support staff in Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere will have to step it up on the attack if the Red Bulls are to cover for what are surely weary forwards.

Chivas won’t make that an easy task. The Goats are a team that have been decimated by injuries and suspensions. Forward Marcos Mondaini’s four game ban begins Sunday, and Andrew Boyens will also be out of action as well. Injured players, including Jimmy Conrad, will force Chivas to accommodate their depleted defensive unit with some mixing and matching of personnel. Early word has leftback Heath Pearce taking a possible central role against the Bulls, while Justin Braun may get the nod up top with team captain Alejandro Moreno.

Even in the face of all this disaster, Chivas has one thing over the Red Bulls; a well rested squad that has had time to prepare for the game, mentally and physically. Preparation and analysis are key to any encounter. A favorable schedule along with time to recover from jet lag can make a world of difference.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls will be taking time out on Saturday to prepare for the Goats in a condensed morning session. Even so, for all the preparation they do on the pitch, it will be the mental game that will decide the winner of tomorrow’s encounter. This can not be viewed as just a game against a weak MLS side; momentum, achievement and success is on the line. With the Gold Cup looming, the Bulls can not afford to look passed anyone. If they do, they will be one in a long line of professional sports teams to fall, and suffer from the dreaded “Trap Game.”