The New York Red Bulls will return to CONCACAF Champions League action Tuesday night against Club Tijuana in the first leg of the home and home series.
The Red Bulls are coming off of a 2-0 win over C.D. Olimpia in the Round of 16, advancing by an aggregate score of 3-1 in the series. Xolos present a much stiffer challenge for the Red Bulls who are still very much in early season form.
“They’re fourth in the league, and that’s a great league they are playing in,” said head coach Jesse Marsch. “They drew against Club America a couple weeks ago, and they have had a lot of games recently, but they’ve performed well.”
Xolos are coming off of a tight series with F.C. Motagua, taking the series, 2-1, with a 1-0 win on the road. The club has started the Clasura well, sitting in sixth place with a 4-4-2 record. While they have had difficulty scoring goals away from home, they’re defense has been very strong, conceding the least amount of goals in Liga MX through ten rounds.
“It’s a talented team. It’s a team that’s good on the ball,” Marsch said. “It’s a team that will spread you and hit you from different spots. They’re good on the counter. They’re very clever and sharp around the goal. When you play Mexican teams, you know you’re going to get some talented players, and you know you’re going to get players that are good on the ball.”
One player who might see an expanded role in the quarterfinal clash is Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra. The newly signed Red Bulls DP came off the bench to put in a solid 25 minute shift. There may be questions about game fitness though as Gamarra works his way back from his extended down time during his transfer saga.
Another new player who may seem time for the Red Bulls is centerback Tim Parker, acquired in a trade late last week for midfield stalwart Felipe. Parker’s acquisition was made all the more necessary heading into the season with an aging Aurélien Collin still working his way back into fitness.
Tyler Adams will be expected to help alleviate the transition in the midfield from Felipe’s exit. The young Homegrown midfielder says he’s ready for the challenge.
“For us, we know that Tijuana is a strong team. Where they sit in the table doesn’t really reflect how good they are,” said Adams ahead of the match. “We know that this game sets up really well for us. It’s a team that really likes the ball, values the ball, and we’re going to try to use our tactics against them, and get the best of them.”
The second leg of the quarterfinals will be played at Red Bull Arena Tuesday, March, 13th. The Red Bulls will be hoping to carry an advantage into that game, but first they will need to break down the best defense in Liga MX.