The New York Red Bulls finally know where they will be playing the first leg of their 2018 CONCACAF Champions League series against Olimpia.
CONCACAF has officially decided to play this Round-of-16 CCL match at the National Stadium of Costa Rica in San Jose. The game will be played behind closed doors due to the fact of an on-going sanction against Olimpia, originating from crowd trouble at the club’s home ground during the 2017 CONCACAF League - the competition the Honduran club won to qualify for CCL. The match is being played outside Honduras because of ongoing uncertainty over the country’s political stability and persistent acts of public protest and violence.
There had been reports that CD Olimpia and fellow Honduran CCL qualifier, Motagua, were lobbying to play their CCL games in the Fort Lauderdale area to accommodate ex-pats who live in the South Florida area, but CONCACAF has not obliged. Olimpia will play in Costa Rica; Motagua will play in Texas.
The New York Red Bulls will travel to the game from Tucson, Arizona, where they are due to participate in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup Pre-Season Tournament. The CCL match is still scheduled for Thursday, February 22nd at 10pm EST at the National Stadium of Costa Rica.
If the Red Bulls play their cards right this could be an advantage against one of the tougher club sides in Honduras. CD Olimpia will not be a push over; they are one of the best sides in Central America and they will be looking for a big scalp to add to hang on their wall. Absent the support of their own fans for the first leg, however, perhaps some of the sting will be drawn from the heavyweight Honduran club.
The Red Bulls will need to be well-prepared, nonetheless. Not least because if they do get past a somewhat depleted Olimpia, the team’s next CCL opponent is likely to be Liga MX’s Club Tijuana.
The remaining weeks of pre-season will be important to RBNY’s task of reaching the last week of February with the sort of form and fitness required to compete in an international cup competition.