For the third straight year the New York Red Bulls will play in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League, when they take on Santos Laguna at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday.
Chris Armas’ men easily dispatched Atlético Pantoja in the first round 5-0 on aggregate and will look to continue their strong start to the season. Armas spoke highly about the way his rotated squad attacked the Columbus Crew, finishing 1-1 on Saturday. The result gives him confidence in the team.
Armas knows that Santos and RBNY are similar teams and that the Liga MX side presents challenges that his team must be prepared for. Santos crushed C.D. Marathón in the first round of the CCL 11-2 on aggregate and currently sit in 6th place in Liga MX.
“I see two teams that value similar things,” Armas said. “Both teams are a little bit direct at times and value defensive play, pressing and counter-pressing and playing in tight spaces. I think we know where they’re strong up the field they have some clever attackers, speedy wingers.”
RBNY will be without Michael Murillo on Tuesday due to suspension. Kyle Duncan who started in Saturday’s draw could be in line for the start at right back. Kemar Lawrence continues to be day to day with his knee injury and could come on for the second half like he did against Pantoja.
This will be the third team the Red Bulls have faced from Liga MX in Concacaf Champions League. RBNY went 2-1-1 last year against Mexican clubs, they defeated Club Tijuana twice in both legs in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals they lost and drew to Guadalajara which saw them ousted from the competition.
For Armas and company, they understand what it’s going to take to replicate the success the team had last year.
” We are taking it one game at a time,” Armas said. “Understanding exactly the demands of leg one in our building, every goal for us how it counts, every goal for them how it counts.” (Also) understanding the discipline it’s going to take,understanding our opponent, respecting our opponent and nothing is a given, so we want to win every game we play.”
Santos Laguna enter the match on short rest. Many of Santos’ starters played in a loss to Club Leon, 3-0, on the weekend. Additionally, Santos reported travel difficulties because of weather delays in the Tri-State area. The team will arrive in full around midnight Tuesday morning, leaving them little time to rest and prepare for the match.
Players to watch
Bradley Wright-Phillips is slowly starting the 2019 season, and is still waiting to get his name on the score sheet. Wright-Philips must be on his ‘A’ game. Santos are one of the best defensive teams in Liga MX. Wright-Philips must be clinical to help the Red Bulls reach the semifinals for the second consecutive year.
Javier Correa is feasting in CCL so far. Marathon struggled to contain the Argentinian striker in leg 1. His movement in and around the box consistently created danger, and he walked away with a hat trick. The Red Bulls backline will need to keep close tabs on Correa if they are going to get out of this one with a clean sheet.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography