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New York Red Bulls exit 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League with 2-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps

RBNY lost a game, a shot at a major trophy, and the services of Gonzalo Veron (for a while, at least).

Courtesy of Stewart Johnstone

mYou want to say the same old Metro? Go right ahead, because the latest failure in a do-or-die playoff game fits right in with the history of this club:

Different teams, different times: the details change, but the results remains stubbornly consistent. For reasons that are rarely twice repeated, the New York Red Bulls (and the MetroStars before them) come up short in these events.

It’s not true to say the team can’t win big games: it has won two must-win matches to clinch the Supporters’ Shield on the last day of the regular season. As it happens, both were against Chicago Fire. Maybe RBNY just needs to play Chicago more often.

This game, as it happens, did repeat past mistakes: the most recent past mistakes. RBNY exited the 2016 MLS playoffs with a loss to Montreal Impact - a Canadian club willing to absorb the Red Bulls’ pressure and play on the counter. RBNY opened up 2017 with a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Vancouver Whitecaps - a Canadian club willing to absorb the Red Bulls’ pressure and play on the counter. The Red Bulls have now been beaten on both sides of Canada by more or less the same tactic in consecutive playoff series.

No matter how many times the Red Bulls attacked the Whitecaps in this match - and they were allowed almost 73% possession, so they attacked a lot - there were not enough real chances to pester goalkeeper David Ousted. Despite having the ball more often than not, RBNY mustered only two shots on goal (the same number the team managed in the first leg) and went out of CCL with a whimper.

Vancouver created more chances, put more shots on target, and put the ball in the net twice. RBNY was shutout, slumping to a 2-0 defeat on the night and a 3-1 loss on aggregate.

Alphonso Davies got the opening goal in the 5th minute. He got a great cross from the near side, though he had both Kemar Lawrence and Luis Robles in front of him to defend the shot - but sadly for both men, the bobbling ball fell nicely for Davies to find enough space to put the Whitecaps ahead.

The Whitecaps scored their second of the night in the 76th minute. Sacha Kljestan didn’t get enough on an attempt to clear a corner, and second-half substitute Fredy Montero powered the loose ball home.

The 2-0 loss eliminated the Red Bulls from CCL, sending the Caps into a semifinal against Liga MX powerhouse Tigres UANL.

Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, it wasn’t just the poor play that yielded little more than half-chances which they have to worry about as they move ahead with the rest of their season. Gonzalo Veron was subbed out very early in the match, injured again.

Three minutes after the Whitecaps scored their first goal, Veron was already looking angry and upset. And then he went down at the near side touchline and it was clear he was already injured. His night was done and he looked like he carried the anger and frustration of a player who has been down this path before with him as he left the field.

As Derrick Etienne Jr subbed in for Veron, the broadcast seemed to suggest he had separated something. The precise nature of the injury was not announced during the game, but it feels safe to assume Veron is out for the team’s MLS season-opener on Sunday, March 5. It will be no surprise t hear he’s out for longer than that.

The result wasn’t the fault of the officials, but the referee clearly showed inconsistencies on the fouls. Every single time there was a very hard foul by the Whitecaps on the Red Bulls, Referee Valdin Legister would swallow his whistle, but if there was a soft foul by the Red Bulls on the Whitecaps, he found his voice.

If they had been playing hockey, the Whitecaps would have been in the box for two minutes after every call - and the Red Bulls would have scored plenty of power play goals. But the referee offered RBNY no such protection or advantage.

Once again this club has failed to advance deep into the CONCACAF Champions League and play for a title in international cup competition. But it will be back at it in the opening of the 2018 season, when the 2017-18 CCL gets started for MLS teams with a new format.

In the meantime, RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch will have to start thinking about competing once again with Gonzalo Veron on the shelf till we get further notice.