By the 60th minute of the Red Bulls' 2017 opener, the game was starting to feel eerily similar to the way the 2016 season ended: down a goal at home to an overachieving Canadian team, with Sacha Kljestan having missed a PK, shots flying but all off the mark, and chilling many fans to the bone.
Luckily, the team made sure not to give up a second goal after Bradley Wright-Phillips netted to secure a tie at home that gives the New York Red Bulls slightly more room for error against Vancouver next week. A win or a draw of 2+ goals sees them through, while another 1-1 draw leads to overtime. But the Red Bulls must score a goal to have any chance of making it through.
Nonetheless, this team needs its stars to play like stars next week, if they are to have any chance of making it to the next round of the tournament.
Here are the Red Bulls player ratings for the 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of their 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
Luis Robles, 7 - Thanks to relatively stout defending, Robles didn't need to make any particularly gutsy saves. Nothing came close to getting past him in the second half.
Justin Bilyeu, 6.5 - Bilyeu made a critical error that led to the Vancouver goal, but otherwise displayed impressive skill. His mental errors probably won't earn him the start in Canada if Kemar Lawrence (suspended for this game) is healthy.
Aurelien Collin, 7 - A solid but unremarkable outing for Collin, who seldom let the ball escape his range and had strong chemistry with the new starters.
Aaron Long, 7.5 - Wednesday night was a real coming out party for Long, who was all over the place and made very strong tackles.
Sal Zizzo, 5 - A strong argument can be made that Zizzo's groin contributed more to the game than anything else he did on Wednesday. That said, he did pull off the off-target pass to Gonzalo Veron that landed at BWP's feet for the game-tying goal, so his game wasn't a total flop. But most fans will agree that Amir Murillo and Connor Lade can't get fit quickly enough...
Sean Davis, 6 - Good balance and ball distribution for Davis, but he seemed a little overmatched at times in terms of speed and tackling.
Felipe, 6.5 - The team needed Felipe to step up in this game, and he really didn't. He wasn't deployed well on the free kicks or even well positioned in the box.
Sacha Kljestan, 6 - What kind of a score do you give a guy who was both its biggest asset and biggest blunderer? If there is nothing else to take away from Kljestan's performance against Vancouver it's that he needs to be taken off PK duties immediately. He has now missed three PKs in his last five competitive matches. Someone else needs to step up next time the ball is spotted.
Daniel Royer, 8 - Nobody took more abuse from Vancouver than Royer, who got knocked around like crazy and drew the (ultimately fruitless) penalty kick in the second half. He displayed tremendous effort getting to the ball from all over the field
Gonzalo Veron, 7 - While Gonzalo Veron easily demonstrated to everyone at the arena that he is the fastest player on the team, he is still missing that touch to make him a truly special player. His speed was so good that players could pass the ball well in front of him and he would outrun a defender several yards ahead of him to it. But his passing and accuracy still need serious work.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, 8.5 - If BWP played the first 60 minutes with as much intensity as the final 30, the team would have had a whole lot more chances.
Derrick Etienne, 6 - on for the last 20 minutes and would have been the hero of the game if his last-minute effort to divert a shot into the net had come off. It didn't, and his impact on the game was otherwise muted by a determined VWFC defense.
Mike Grella, n/a - came in for the last three minutes, and that is not a lot of time to make an impression.