By FRANCO PANIZO
The New York Red Bulls had their destiny in their hands. All they had to do was win twice to secure advancement.
They failed with a match to spare.
Needing a victory in order to stay alive in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Red Bulls suffered an early elimination on Wednesday night after settling for a frustrating scoreless draw vs. CD FAS. Saer Sene had a golden chance to give New York the lead in El Salvador, but he completely missed the target on a first-half penalty kick that marked the MLS club’s best opportunity in the match.
The Red Bulls, who for the second straight game deployed a largely reserve-filled lineup, had other chances late but also failed to capitalize on them.
The result assured that the Montreal Impact would finish atop Group 3 and move on in the competition while also knocking out Mike Petke’s side before it hosts the Canadian team in the group finale next month. CD FAS were eliminated before Wednesday’s match.
New York came out with a stronger starting unit than the one that took to the field last week in a 1-0 loss in Montreal, with starters Dax McCarty, Lloyd Sam, Chris Duvall and Ambroise Oyongo all included in the lineup. Sam, however, had to leave the game 16 minutes in after sustaining hamstring tightness in his right leg.
The Red Bulls controlled the possession battle, but were unable to create a quality scoring chance until Oyongo drew a foul just inside the edge of the penalty area. Sene stepped up with a glorious chance to put his team in front, but he skied his attempt over the crossbar to keep the game goal-less at the break.
Sene almost made amends for his blunder early into the second half when he pushed the ball home via a half-volley from the left side of the 18-yard box, but he was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.
The Red Bulls continued to boss possession and penetrate the final third in the closing 45 minutes, but could not muster up much quality in front of goal until the waning moments.
Ruben Bover had a close-ranger header that he weakly sent straight at FAS goalkeeper Luis Contreras, and then hit a free kick from 19 yards out in the 87th minute too high in what was New York’s last real look at goal.
Eliminated or not, Petke’s side will have to play its final group stage match against the Impact at Red Bull Arena on Oct. 22.
The Red Bulls return to action on Sunday, with a league visit to the LA Galaxy.
Check out the match highlights: