Bayern Munich made their return to the United States after a decade-long absence and, despite missing several star names and still being in the early stages of preseason, proved a class above Mexican opponents Chivas Guadalajara.
A sellout crowd of 25,000 at Red Bull Arena was evidence that the 2013 European champions and current world champions’ efforts to increase the North-American presence was enjoying success, ahead of their meeting with the MLS All-Stars next week. And on the field in New Jersey they garnered important fitness ahead of the new season as well as impressing those in attendance with a quality display, without ever coming close to hitting top gear. Claudio Pizarro headed in the only goal of the game early on and, while they didn’t add to it, Pep Guardiola’s side had a heavy degree of control on proceedings through much of the contest.
The Bundesliga champions were without a full six players from Germany’s World Cup squad, as well as Dutch winger Arjen Robben and Brazilian defender Dante, yet those present still showcased the passing and movement so synonymous with Guardiola’s sides. It was too much to handle for a Chivas side that has fallen on hard times and faces a battle against relegation.
Despite their predicament and with an important domestic match in just three days’ time, Chivas manager Carlos Bustos fielded his first-choice lineup, which has begun the LIGA MX Aperture with a draw and a win. But a team featuring the experience of Aldo de Nigris, Omar Bravo and Carlos Salcido struggled to get anything going against Bayern until the latter stages. The Germans’ pressing off the ball was in evident despite their fitness not yet being at its sharpest, and it denied their opponents any rhythm.
Although missing many of their big names, Bayern did field their highest-profile new arrival, Robert Lewandowski. The striker snapped up from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer has already scored four goals in three preseason appearances, but showed understandable signs of rustiness on this outing. Indeed, for all their stylish possession, Bayern largely lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
The only goal, just 10 minutes in, came from a set-piece and with a heavy helping hand from some slack Chivas marking. Franck Ribery, making his return from injury that ruled him out of France’s World Cup squad, whipped in a near-post corner and veteran Peruvian forward Pizarro continued to show he’s a reliable presence in the box with a header that deflected past José Antonio Rodríguez in the Chivas goal.
Pizarro really should have doubled Bayern’s lead soon after. Again it was Ribery who supplied him, this time after finding space down the left and cutting inside before serving the ball up on a plate for his teammate, who shot poorly wide of the target.
Like their opponents, Bayern were playing with a three-man backline, but it was one that was without a traditional center-back as Javi Martinez, Rafinha and David Alaba took up the defensive responsibility. In front of them 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino gave a fine demonstration of his ability and a sign that the next generation coming through at Bayern promises to continue the club’s status among the European elite. The midfielder came close to providing a dazzling second goal, but after a slalom run he was denied at the last. Fellow-teenager Julian Green similarly has hopes of making the breakthrough into Bayern’s first team, but the German-born United States international had to watch on from the bench as he continues to nurse a knee injury.
His coach showed some concern that more of his players could pick up unnecessary injuries late in the first half as the friendly became a little too competitive with Chivas putting in some tough tackles. Chivas were able to offer more of a threat in a second half that was regularly interrupted by substitutions. Bravo looked to have a clear chance at goal but failed to get the ball under his spell in order to fire off a shot. His replacement Carlos Fierro came even closer to getting Chivas level, but first lacked conviction with a sight of goal and then saw Bayern goalkeeper Tom Starke pull off a spectacular flying save from the young striker’s close-range effort.
Still, Chivas will take solace from a respectable display as they head back home for far more important matters. Bayern, meanwhile, can now travel to Portland for the All-Star game, where they will welcome back their World Cup winners as they continue their preparations for their first test of the new season in the German Super Cup against rivals Borussia Dortmund.