The New York Red Bulls came into Wednesday’s Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 first leg against a side they didn’t know much about. After countless pressure, Chris Armas’ side used goals in each half to take a two-goal advantage back to New Jersey.
An own-goal from Juan Innocent paired with a second-half finish from Daniel Royer handed the Red Bulls a 2-0 road win over Atletico Pantoja in Santo Domingo.
The visitors owned the bulk of the possession and could’ve easily had a larger lead in the opening half. Royer’s low-driven attempt in the 24th minute forced Miguel Baez into his toughest save of the first-half.
Atletico Pantoja added to the Red Bulls early frustration minutes later as several defenders blocked Bradley Wright-Phillips effort from close range before keeping out Kaku’s follow-up.
Kaku’s chipped pass over the Pantoja line in the 29th minute gave Royer a one-on-one opportunity, but Baez swatted away the Austrian’s effort.
The Red Bulls broke the deadlock after countless pressure in the Pantoja box. Following a corner kick, Wright-Phillips volleyed towards goal which deflected in off of both Baez and Innocent for a 1-0 lead.
In the 68th minute, the Red Bulls broke through again with Kaku setting up Royer. The Paraguayan playmaker chipped a cross from the right wing over to Royer who slotted in from close-range.
Omir Fernandez came close to scoring on his debut later in the half, but Baez punched the midfielder’s shot away. Defensively, it was a strong performance by centerbacks Aaron Long and Tim Parker who helped limit Pantoja to zero shots on goal. Marc Rzatkowski also shined for the Red Bulls after an aggressive shift in midfield.
The Red Bulls take a 2-0 aggregate lead back to Harrison for Feb. 27th’s second leg.