Jesse Marsch: “Chivas has a style that they stick to always and so does Red Bull and that’s what will make this game so interesting.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Jesse Marsch made no bones about it.

The Red Bulls head coach said his team faces a much greater challenge in Chivas than Xolos in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals Wednesday night.

“We know we’re going to have to be at our absolute best,” he said about one of the most important games in the franchise’s 23-year history.

“It’s a bigger task,” Marsch added during an official pregame press conference in Guadalajara Tuesday. “It’s a tougher match for us. It’s going to require us to play even better than we did. Listen, the game in Tijuana we needed luck in many ways, a big performance from our goalkeeper. So, we’re aware of the task tomorrow night is a big one.”

New York dispatched Xolos in the quarterfinals, 5-1, winning both legs. The Major League Soccer side kicked off with a 2-0 triumph in Tijuana, followed by a 3-1 home win.

The confrontation will be a battle of styles — Chivas’ unrelenting attack vs. the Red Bulls’ high pressure.

“Chivas has a style that they stick to always and so does Red Bull and that’s what will make this game so interesting,” Marsch said. “We’re not coming here to defend for 90 minutes. We know that we’ll have to address their strengths. We’re going to have to make sure there’s going to be moments where they’re going to throw a lot at us, the momentum of the crowd, the game. But we like to go after games. We like to go after teams. We like to be aggressive. We like to run, we like to press, and we will do that tomorrow. And that sets up for a game that may be ugly at times, but one where two teams will be very aggressive to go after each other. … We know we’re going to have to be at our absolute best.”

While the visitors plan to be aggressive, Marsch realized the Red Bulls can’t allow themselves to be in a position to be exposed. He wanted to return home for the second leg at Red Bull Arena with a chance to win the series.

“In key moments we will be very aggressive to attack, will be very aggressive on set pieces,” he said. “There’s areas of the game that we think we can gain advantage but we have to do it with the idea behind it that we don’t want to expose ourselves because specifically the attacking players of Chivas are very talented players.”

Marsch explained to the Mexican media that he had a connection with Chivas from his playing days. He performed for Chivas USA from 2006-09.

“Everyone may not know this, but I played for Chivas USA in MLS, so we had a connection with the club down here,” he said. “There’s a lot of different people involved with Chivas Guadalajara that were different than I was with Chivas USA, but Jorge Vergara is still here, the owner, and more than anything, what I know about Chivas Guadalajara is the passion of the fans, the passion of the team, the passion of the owner, the responsibility the players have to this club, to football in this country.

“So, I know very well the culture of Chivas Guadalajara. The team has done an incredible job. They’re very clear on how they play and who they are. They are very committed as a team. It doesn’t matter who’s on the field. They play the same way. They are protagonists. They go after teams and I expect the exact same in this match as well. We have massive respect for them and we’ll be prepared for our best match of the year.”