Harrison, N.J. – Goals on each side of halftime by Santos Laguna‘s dynamic attack pairing of Diego Valdes and Julio Furch left the New York Red Bulls staring at an early exit from the CONCACAF Champions League.
The 2-0 home loss leaves much work to be done in Leg 2 for a Red Bulls team that advanced to the semifinals of last year’s tournament.
Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips said post-game that the first leg home loss, “throws a spanner in the works,” if his side intends on matching or besting last year’s CONCACAF Champions League appearance. Wright-Philips said that the 2-0 deficit, “definitely doesn’t reflect the game,” and cited several missed scoring opportunities. However, BWP noted, “we created chances, I get confidence from that.”
New York’s English born striker accounted for both Red Bull goals in last year’s quarterfinal win at Tijuana, a result that BWP cited as a confidence booster heading into next Tuesday’s second leg on the road at Estadio Corona. One difference this time around is that the Red Bulls went on the road last year with a 3-1 win over their Mexican opponent already in the books, rather than a finding themselves in a 0-2 hole.
Santos Laguna Overcome Frigid Temps and Canceled Flights
Only a smattering of fans braved Tuesday night’s frigid temperatures that never climbed out of the 20s, with a sizable percentage of those supporters on hand to cheer on the visitors. After resting eight of his regulars for last weekend’s MLS season opener in Columbus, a 1-1 draw, coach Chris Armas turned to his first team to take on the Mexican side.
The home team was handed an early advantage before a ball was kicked as Santos Laguna’s inbound flight was canceled, leaving the visitors to finally arrive at their hotel on the wrong side of midnight. Speaking through an interpreter at his post-game press conference, Santos Laguna coach Salvador Reyes acknowledged that he was proud of his players for shrugging off those logistical difficulties, while praising Red Bulls as a great team and noting that nothing has been decided.
As New York imposed its will early in Tuesday’s match it was no great leap to suggest that the Mexican club was feeling the effects of their journey. The Red Bulls sprang from the traps quickly when Kaku fed Wright-Phillips with a defense-splitting pass, but BWP was unable to beat Santos keeper Jonathan Orozco, who parried Wright-Phillips’ chance for a corner kick.
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) March 6, 2019
Orozco would frustrate the home team all night long (seen in the above video), although poor finishing played it’s part as well. With the match still knotted at zeroes, a pair of particularly egregious misses would haunt the New York side. The first came in the 35th minute when Daniel Royer failed to convert from Orozco’s doorstep after latching onto a wayward shot off the boot of Wright-Phillips.
Moments later, BWP was the culprit when he headed wide from a lovely cross by Marc Rzatkowski. Those misses would prove costly when Diego Valdes eluded the New York defense to blast past Luis Robles in the Red Bulls goal after a nice set up from Santos striker Julio Furch just three minutes before the half time whistle.
The Laguna attack, led by Furch, Valdes and Marcos Moreno, was causing the Red Bulls top rated back line all sorts of problems with its movement and clever interplay. This issue would raise its head again soon after the resumption of play when Furch put the Bulls in a two goal ditch in the 48th minute.
To their credit, the home team battled on. Things got chippy as normally mild-mannered midfielder Kaku got into an altercation that earned him a yellow card on the hour mark. The Red Bulls continued to attack Orozco’s net. Unfortunately for them, the combination of their own profligacy and the Santos Laguna net minder’s stellar play kept a goose egg on the the new RBA scoreboard at Red Bull Arena.
With the Houston Dynamo also falling at home to Tigres 2-0, it was yet another bad night for MLS teams when faced with Mexican opposition. Still, Wright-Phillips was undeterred in defeat. “I’m hoping for another Tijuana,” BWP said outside the Red Bulls locker room late Tuesday night, adding with a hint of a promise, “I feel like I owe the team a couple of goals.”