The Red Bulls once again started a brand new year with the CONCACAF Champions League and this time the location of the first leg was different, but the result stayed the same. They left the National Stadium of Costa Rica with a one all draw but this time it favored them.
The Red Bulls played a very strong and dominating first half as they faced Honduran side Ollimpia on neutral ground and a closed door match due to the home fans serving a ban for pitch invasion as well as the honduran clubs requesting a move out of the country due to political striff.
Daniel Royer got two cracks on frame as he was taking advantage of a bouncing ball inside the 30th minute, when he touched it away from his defender Royer took a shot with the keeper off his line, but sadly it bounced wide of the far post.
But he got a second chance on frame with some help from Bradley Wright-Phillips. A beautiful cross along the near side touchline sprung Royer who split between two defenders and when he got to that ball, a flick header beat Donis Escobar for the away goal.
That crucial away goal in an important road match to begin this tournament and their season was very important for them to set up a big home match next week and face this Olimpia side that felt a bit off not playing at home and not doing it in front of their supporters.
But they had a lifeline gifted for them inside the 72nd minute as Aurelien Collin tripped up his man inside his own penalty area and referee John Pitti Hernandez had no choice but to blow his whistle and point to the spot. Brayan Moya converted the spot kick inside the 73rd minute to level the match at one a piece.
But after the first ninety minutes was over, the Red Bulls left Costa Rica on the advantage of the away goals rule and will now play their second ninety minute match inside the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena with a chance to face either another Honduran side in Motagua or Liga MX side in the Xolos of club Tijuana.
“You know it’s our first game of the year. I thought in the first half we played quite well, controlled most of the half, and then you give big credit to Olimpia because in the second half they really raised their game, they started to possess the ball a little bit more and create a few more chances.” said Jesse Marsch.
“We had chances to maybe make it 2-0 and push the game a little bit and be a little bit sharper, but some of our fitness and game fitness caught up with us, and we make a mistake on the penalty by taking down Charitos, and then you know, the rest of the game was pretty slow. I think overall a 1-1 result is pretty fair, and we feel good about that going back to Red Bull Arena.”
This was the very first time I have seen the Red Bulls or at least a match that was both in a neutral venue as well as a closed door affair. It was cool, interesting and strange at the same time because there weren’t any fans watching this important fixture of the International calendar.
I have seen highlights of club matches being played with no home fans or no fans at all, but going from zero to ninety involving the Red Bulls was fascinating to see. All because of the circumstances that was involved from the Olimpia fans pitch invasion and the situation going on down in Honduras.
You can actually hear the players and the referee talking to each other very loud and it didn’t feel at times like a professional match, but more like a school yard game or as a pre-season game with little fans.
But once again the Red Bulls know very well what they need to do in their home tie of the second leg. They must score plenty of goals and make sure they don’t fall behind at any time of the match.