Juan Agudelo, after his first training session as a Chivas USA forward and again after his first game with the club, spoke of his excitement to return to Red Bull Arena and face his former club.
That game has arrived, but Agudelo is missing, off with the U.S. national team in Florida preparing for next month's World Cup qualifiers. He is, however, a big part of the conversation heading into Wednesday's Major League Soccer showdown against the New York Red Bulls.
So, too, defender Heath Pearce, who a week ago was on Field 6 at Home Depot Center preparing for a tough stretch of games on Chivas' schedule. Now he's anchor to the Red Bulls' backline, ready to take on his former club.
If ever a trade were win-win, Thursday's was it. Chivas (4-6-1) picked up a young, rising star that New York, for whatever reason, had no interest in. The Red Bulls' thin defense got a versatile veteran with national team experience. And then Chivas, in another trade, picked up Pearce's replacement, veteran Danny Califf. Everybody is happy.
Agudelo, just 19, already has impressed with the national team and is a regular on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann's rosters. But he didn't fit in stylistically at New York and struggled for playing time last year behind Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers and this year behind Henry and Kenny Cooper, although he also was dealing with a knee injury.
Henry is happy to see him at Chivas.
“[Red Bulls GM] Erik Soler said it at halftime [last weekend]: He wanted to go. So you’ve got to respect that,” Henry told the New York Post. “He wasn’t playing here, so I thought and he thought actually that it was a waste of time for him. ... I know some people were upset about it, had [something] to say about it, but at the end of the day, if you think about Agu, he had to play. It’s good for him.”
Klinsmann weighed in when he announced that Agudelo, who debuted for the Goats in Saturday's 1-0 SuperClasico victory over the Galaxy, was coming into camp with the U.S.
“We hope [the trade to Chivas] gives him a lift ...,” Klinsmann said. “He has an opportunity now, and we want him to grab it and make clear to everyone that he deserves to be a starter no matter where he plays.”
Said Henry: “If I was in his position, and you fight for your place and you see that it doesn’t work, then what’s next? You’ve got to go. The most important thing is that he shows the talent he has, wherever he is. That’s all we can wish him. The most important thing for your national team is that Juan Agudelo can play.”
Pearce, who spent 15 months with Chivas, told reporters at the Red Bulls' training session Monday that seeing his old teammates would be nice, but the trade left no hard feelings to work out.
“It’ll be great to see some of those guys, because I’ve got some dear friends on that team,” he said. “But for the most part, it’s just another game, and we need to get three points and do it in an entertaining fashion.”
Chivas, he said, will “come out flying. Confidence is everything, especially in this league, and it’s all about trying to create these winning streaks. I think they’ll come out strong, and they’ve added a few additions, which sometimes sparks a new energy in the team.”
WORTH NOTING: Oswaldo Minda will leave after the match to join Ecuador's national team in advance of World Cup qualifiers June 2 against Argentina in Buenos Aires and June 10 against Colombia in Quito. Defender Ante Jazic departs after Saturday's game at HDC against Seattle to join Canada's national team for a friendly June 3 against the U.S. and World Cup qualifiers June 8 against Cuba in Havana and June 12 against Honduras in Toronto. ... Chivas leads the all-time series, 5-4-5, and are 3-3-1 in New Jersey and 1-1-0 at Red Bull Arena. The Goats, behind Justin Braun's hat trick, won last year's meeting in Harrison, 3-2. ... Kenny Cooper has scored goals in New York's last three games. ... New York would set a club record with a sixth successive victory. ... New York would set a club record with a sixth successive victory. ... Rafa Marquez could be back in the lineup for New York. He's missed all but one of the last six matches because of suspension or injury. ... Red Bulls midfielder Victor Palsson is suspended after picking up two red cards in last weekend's win at Montreal. ... Chivas USA midfielder Marco Delgado, Academy forward Ben Spencer and former Academy star Esteban “Stevie” Rodriguez, who signed earlier this year with Club Tijuana, are in Portugal with the U.S. under-18 national team for the Lisbon International Tournament.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Head coach: Hans Backe
Key players: F Thierry Henry, F Kenny Cooper, M Joel Lindpere, D/M Rafa Marquez, D Jan Gunnar Solli, M Teemu Tainio, M Dane Richards, D Heath Pearce, D Wilman Conde.
Local guys: Pearce until last week was a starting center back for the Goats.
Update: The Red Bulls (8-3-1) have been in an injury crisis, missing a half-dozen starters or more for more than a month, and making do with a subpar backline and rookie goalkeeper -- and yet they are pulling out one-goal victories like it's nothing and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. Five in a row, including the Galaxy and Houston Dynamo, and last weekend, they became the first club to beat the Impact in Montreal. And now sure-thing MVP (if the season ended anytime soon) Henry (9 goals and 5 assists in eight games) could be back from a hamstring injury, teaming with Cooper (10 goals in 12 games) in MLS's most potent frontline duo. Some of the backline issues have been helped by Pearce's acquisition from Chivas last week, and Conde appears ready to return from injury. There remain health concerns -- a setback in his rehab from a knee injury has Tainio likely to miss two more months, and versatile Solli is out until next month with a quadriceps tear -- but, frankly, they've been a more successful side with their bigger names missing.
Out: M Marvin Iraheta (right ACL tear).
Questionable: M Ben Zemanski (right MCL sprain).
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Out: D Stephen Keel (back strain), M Teemu Tainio (right knee sprain), F Jose Angulo (right knee sprain).
Doubtful: D Jan Gunnar Solli (left quadriceps injury).
Probable: F Thierry Henry (right hamstring strain), D Wilman Conde (left groin strain).
Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.), 4 p.m. PT
Referee: Armando Villarreal
TV: Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)