It was not the worst result in the world, but the New York Red Bulls certainly should have fared better against Olimpia in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League match. The 1-1 final did get the Red Bulls the all important away goal they were looking for, but a draw does put a bit more pressure on the team as they return to Red Bull Arena.
The first half was promising for a team that was shrouded in mystery up until an hour before the match. The team set up in a similar formation, with the wingbacks of Kemar Lawrence and Alex Muyl protroling the left and right respectively. It was a case of goal scorer turned provider, as Bradley Wright-Phillips dinked a gorgeous ball into the box for Daniel Royer to run onto, heading it past Olimpia keeper Donis Escober.
This would be as good as the game would get for the Red Bulls. The second half was one to forget, as the Red Bulls seemed to switch off and allow Olimpia to control much of the ball. The Hondoran team took their opportunity, and their hard work paid off when they were awarded a penalty in the 72nd minute. Midfielder Brayan Moya buried the spot kick, giving his team a lifeline heading into the second leg.
Carlos Rivas and Marc Rzatkowski both made their competitive debuts for New York, with Derrick Etienne Jr. also getting a solid 30 minutes of playtime. It is always nice to see Jesse Marsch actually use all three of his substitutes, especially when the bench had multiple influential players on it. Looking to the season ahead, it will be a welcomed change for the Red Bulls to have some proven players that they can bring off the bench to change the game if needed.
The second leg overall should see much of the same 11 on the field that played in the first match. Apart from Kaku, who is fairing well in the preseason tour in Arizona, the players that have featured in both legs of this matchup are the ones that fans should expect to see all season.
Rivas was only given about 13 minutes of game time in the first leg, but he could be called upon much earlier if the Red Bulls find themselves down a goal after the first half. Rzatkowski could also see an increase in minutes, as Sean Davis seemed to have limited impact in the first leg fixture.
Tommy Reading was not in the 18 against Olimpia, but could also break into the first team should he perform well with Red Bull II. For now, though, it seems Collin, Long, and Murillo are the first choice defenders for the team. The defense has been injury prone over the last few seasons, so a first team spot could be much closer than he thinks.
Overall, the 1-1 result could have been much worse for the Red Bulls. The cards are still in their favor as they return to Red Bull arena for the first time this season, with any sort of win seeing the Red Bulls move on to face Tijuana. The home fans will be itching to see their team back in the white and red, but Marsch should not head into the game with a defensive mindset.
Though a 0-0 scoreline would also see New York advance, the danger of Olimpia nicking a goal and forcing the Red Bulls to open up is just too much of a risk to take. Emulating their form from the first half of last match would be the ideal way to start. Unlike last match, however, they need to sustain that energy for the full 90 minutes. This is not a match that the Red Bulls can afford to go into lightly, so both Marsch and the squad need to bring their A-game to advance to the next round.