New York Red Bulls begin new CONCACAF Champions League run

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Bradley Wright Phillips
HARRISON, NEW JERSEY — November 29: Bradley Wright-Phillips #99 of New York Red Bulls in action during the New York Red Bulls Vs Atlanta United FC MLS Eastern Conference Final second leg at Red Bull Arena on November 29th, 2018 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez, Dominican Republic (February 20, 2019) — The New York Red Bulls began their 2019 CONCACAF Champions League campaign in Santo Domingo against Atlético Pantoja.

This is the Red Bulls’ third CONCACAF tournament in as many years. Pantoja is the first Dominican team to appear in the Champions League.

The first 15 minutes of the match firmly belonged to the Red Bulls. The first scoring opportunity came from a strong advance by striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was cut off at the top of the 18-yard box.

Meanwhile, Pantoja offered a counterattack, but were squeezed out by Michael Amir Murillo. The pace of the game increased rapidly from there. The Red Bulls had several scrambling chances in front of the goal by the 30-minute mark, but were unable to finish. Pantoja goalkeeper Odalis Baez made several dramatic saves.

Own Goal Opens Scoring

Wright-Phillips made the shot that opened the scoring in the 39th minute.

The ball took a deflection off Pantoja midfielder Jean Walnes Innocent and rolled into the goal. After that, the remainder of the first half calmed down. The Red Bulls defense kept Pantoja to three shots, none of them on target.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls had six shots on goal in the first half alone.

High Physicality Throughout Match

After sustaining a head injury in the 34th minute, defender Connor Lade was taken off at halftime. Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence entered the match in his place. Lawrence, whose absence hurt the team during the 2018 MLS playoffs, is close to starting form once again.

Meanwhile, Wright-Phillips nearly tallied a second goal in the 58th minute, but the lead referee correctly ruled a handball. Moments later, midfielder Alex Muyl went down in the box and called for a foul to no avail. Instead, Murillo was the player who was issued a yellow card in the 66th minute for a late hit. Daniel Royer doubled the lead in the 67th minute. A cross from Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra fell to the Austrian, who deftly found the back of the net.

Academy Products Bring Fresh Legs

Homegrown player Omir Fernandez made his debut for the first team in the 74th minute, replacing Muyl. Fernandez put up a shot on target just minutes after his entrance. Fellow Homegrown player Brian White followed as the final substitution and also challenged the Dominican goalkeeper almost immediately. His shot went just over the crossbar.

Despite a last ditch shot by Pantoja midfielder Juan Carlos Lopez, the Red Bulls maintained a clean sheet. The second leg will take place at Red Bull Arena next Wednesday.

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