It was mission accomplished for the New York Red Bulls down in Guatemala as they secured the point they needed to get into the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. On a rainy Tuesday night in Guatemala City, the Red Bulls got their CCL job done, and gave themselves a boost for the upcoming MLS regular season run-in and playoffs.
"It's a big moment for the club, the energy after the game was great within the team," said Jesse Marsch, "We have accomplished a lot in the year and a half since I've been here, we've set high standards for what our expectations are. We've challenged a lot of the young guys to step up in this tournament and they did. To see Justin Bilyeu, Aaron Long and Tyler Adams, who held his own - and it sets up for some big challenges coming next spring. "
Now it's time to focus on the next opponent: Philadelphia Union, the opponent who knocked RBNY out of US Open Cup this season, and followed that with a 2-2 draw in league play that was earned - how else? - by fighting back from a two-goal deficit. In fact, the Red Bulls' recent difficulty defending two-goal leads started at Talon Energy Stadium on Sunday, July 17th.
"We have two games against Philly to go, their season is on the line We want to establish ourselves as top of the East. It's all there for us. We are going to face a side that has knocked us out twice and had our number in different ways, so the motivation and mentality for this game is very high."
Luis Robles is also getting ready for the Union, conscious of the threat posed by players such as Charlie Davies and Alejandro Bedoya. "They have good players and had a great start. Many thought they would be higher in the table," said Robles, "They've had their own share of difficulties, but none the less the challenges will be like Bedoya, Sapong, Pontius to name a few. It's similar like playing against Montreal, you need to be mindful of where these attacking pieces are."
The team advises Omer Damari could be used this Saturday against Philadelphia, but Marsch is setting Ronald Zubar's return to the squad for after the FIFA break. The center back is expected to be available for the last regular season home game against the Columbus Crew, but not before. It will be a further boost to RBNY to have these players back.
On a sad note, Thursday morning brought tragedy to the Hoboken Train Terminal. At least one person was killed, and several injured, when a train crashed into the station. Some Red Bulls players live in Hoboken and use the station to catch the PATH to Red Bull Arena. Jesse Marsch spoke on behalf of the team:
"I've taken the NJ Transit a lot and some of the guys have taken the PATH train to the games. Any time there is a tragedy like this [you hope] that people who you know and love are not a part of this," he said, "At the same time you feel for all the families as well. You hope everyone makes it through OK, and the death count can remain low."
Once A Metro joins RBNY in offering condolences and concern to all affected by the Hoboken tragedy.