The New York Red Bulls head into the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League series against C.D. Olimpia with a strong feeling of confidence to see themselves through the Round of 16.
Despite giving up a one-goal advantage in the first leg, the Red Bulls currently lead the series on away goals after the first leg finished 1-1.
Jesse Marsch was happy with the result, stating that he felt the team’s strong preseason provided the team the necessary tools to get the job done.
“This has been our best preseason yet,” said Marsch during the team’s media day event ahead of Thursday night’s match. “Guys have come in fit, there’s a concentration on the work everyday. The commitment to get better and challenge ourselves has been fantastic. I think it will set us up for some early success.”
The Red Bulls have every right to be confident after a strong showing in the first half of the series in which they controlled the game and opened their scoring account for the season on a goal from Daniel Royer.
Adding to their confidence of seeing the series out at home is the issue Olimpia has faced getting some of their players into the country due to visa issues. Olimpia goal scorer in leg 1, Brayan Moya, as well as Jonathan Paz, and Dabrison Castillo, will all miss the match.
Last season, the Red Bulls faltered in the semi-final round of the MLS Cup Playoffs when they failed to take their chances. Bradley Wright-Phillips understood the importance of taking their chances in the second leg.
“We’ve got them here at Red Bull Arena,” said Wright-Phillips. “I think down there we outplayed them, especially in the first half. We should have won that game. We need to take our chances and not concede.”
In 2017, the Red Bulls failed to advance in their knockout clash with fellow MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps. In both matches, the Red Bulls looked like they were still heavily entrenched in preseason, and their early season form reflected their slow start.
Now, in their first competitive minutes of the year, the Red Bulls are showing that the youth movement is mitigating some of the issues they faced last season when players returned from the offseason a bit sluggish.
One concern for the Red Bulls will be a number of important players that have picked up yellow cards in the first leg. Sean Davis, Tyler Adams, Felipe, and Aurélien Collin all saw themselves cautioned during the physical battle with Olimpia. With a potential date against Club Tijuana should the Red Bulls advance, they will be at a significant disadvantage losing any one of the players on yellow card watch.
The Red Bulls have had a significant advantage over visiting teams at Red Bull Arena in recent years, and Danny Royer thinks the second leg will be more of the same.
“I think every team that’s coming to Red Bull Arena will have a difficult time there,” Royer said. “We’ll try to make it really difficult for them and if we play the same soccer as always in Red Bull Arena then I’m pretty confident. I can’t wait for it and to get a good result.”