Despite having CD Olimpia reeling at the end of the first half with a 1-0 lead, the New York Red Bulls were lucky to escape Costa Rica with a draw.
“We had chances to maybe make it 2-0 and push the game a little bit and be a
little bit sharper, but some of our fitness and game fitness caught up with us,” said head coach Jesse Marsch. “We make a mistake on the penalty by taking down (Michaell) Chirinos.”
That mistake cost New York coming home with a 1-0 series lead. Red Bulls centerback Aurelien Collin was caught in a dangerous position as Olimpia midfielder Chirinos brought in a ball in the box. Collin took Chirinos down, and Olimpia’s Brayon Moya converted the penalty to pull even.
New York took the lead off a lovely header by midfielder Danny Royer, who looked dangerous more often than not in the first frame of the match. Said Royer, “I just noticed that Bradley (Wright-Phillips) got the ball and there was some space behind the
defenders and I tried to open up and get in there and obviously a great cross from Bradley, and I just tried to get my head on, and I’m lucky it went in.”
If anything positive can be taken from the result, it’s that the Red Bulls return home with an all-important away goal in their back pocket. “We’re happy with the away goal, but when you see the 90 minutes, I think you can see there is more possible,” Royer stated. “We could’ve scored more goals, we wanted a clean sheet, we couldn’t make that happen, so I think there were some positives, but also some negatives and we have to analyze.”
One of the interesting quirks of CONCACAF Champions League is that many of the clubs in Central America are very physical. It’s one of the unique challenges that come with playing in the tournament. Royer found that Olimpia was no different. “It’s tough because they’re pretty savvy. They’re playing dirty, and we knew that, but it’s always
different when you talk about it, and then it actually happens.”
The match was played behind closed doors. This venue change came as a result of sanctions due to poor crowd control at CD Olimpia’s home stadium in Honduras. Now the task at hand comes home. Marsch and Royer are looking forward to the return leg.
“I know we’re not at our sharpest right now, or at our best, but certainly now looking forward to the leg back home, we’ll have control of the game, we always do at Red
Bull Arena, and it will be important for us to capitalize on advantages that we have,” Marsch stated.
The midfielder echoed his coach’s remarks. “We’re looking forward to it. I think every team that’s coming to Red Bull Arena will have a difficult time there. We 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 and can’t wait for it and to get a good result.”
The Red Bulls return home Red Bull Arena where they’ll face Olimpia in the second leg of their CCL matchup on Thursday, March 1st, at 8 pm.