On a rainy and cold night in a half filled Red Bull Arena, the New York Red Bulls pulled off a solid 2-0 win against Olimpia to secure their spot in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Bradley Wright-Phillips wasted no time in starting off his scoring tally for the year, netting from long range in the second half. Sean Davis added a second due to a wicked deflection off an Olimpia defender, and the Red Bulls more or less cruised home to a comfortable victory.
The defense was still the achilles heel of the team, with Aurelien Collin yet again being the root of the problem. He was consistently out-paced during the match and committed silly fouls that only created more chances for Olimpia. The Red Bulls may have finally solved that problem, though, as they made a big transfer decision.
Felipe was sold to the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for allocation money and defender Tim Parker. This is an obvious move by the club to replace Collin in the starting XI, with Parker lining up as a solid partner next to Aaron Long. Jesse Marsch seems very adamant on giving Parker crucial minutes, so he could see the field against Tijuana.
This has been a long time coming for Collin and the Red Bulls, who also have their first match in the new MLS season to worry about just four days after their match against Tijuana. The general consensus is that Marsch will field his strongest XI against Tijuana, playing a slightly less star-studded line up against Portland on March 10th.
This will be a lot more challenging than the closed doors match that took place in Costa Rica vs. Olimpia. Fans in Mexico have always been known for their support, and Tijuana is no different. The hostile environment the Red Bulls will encounter should not be handled lightly, and a big performance from every player will be necessary.
Much like the first leg vs. Olimpia, the Red Bulls will need to grab at least one away goal to give themselves a good chance of moving on. Tijuana is not impossible to beat at home, as they barely scraped by Motagua in the last round on a 2-1 aggregate score. Motagua scored their only goal while away to Tijuana as well, so this is an encouraging sign for Marsch and his team.
The team that lined up in the second leg vs. Olimpia, minus Collin, will most likely be the same squad that takes the pitch in Mexico. The players looked encouraging going forward, with Royer and Wright-Phillips playing well off of each other yet again.
Kaku also made his official home debut at Red Bull Arena against Olimpia, With Alex Muyl making little impact in the match, it will not be a surprise if Marsch decides to start with Kaku from kick off. He seemed only slightly out of tune with the team, but still had a shot on goal and played relatively well for his first competitive match with the team.
This is not a match that Tijuana will take lightly either, as the club is just as hungry for a trophy. They do have a huge match against Tigres in Liga MX at the weekend, but like the Red Bulls, will be focusing on the CONCACAF Champions League.
Marsch will need to stress the importance of defensive cover against a team that will look to counter the Red Bulls whenever possible. Keeping a clean sheet would be nice, but getting a goal is much more important moving forward. The Red Bulls need to take what they learned in the series vs. Olimpia and apply it to the Tijuana tie. The journey to the final will only get harder, but a good showing in the first leg will give the team a lot of confidence moving forward.