It was a tight game and despite the conditions and travel plans gone awry, Santos Laguna came out victorious 2-0. At the end of the game not much separated the two, possession nearly even split with a similar amount of chances created. Two mishaps ended up doing in the Red Bulls’ defense on a night where they actually didn’t perform poorly.
Santos Laguna were simply, clinical. As the match went on, Santos Laguna settled in and overcame being outnumbered in the midfield. What was key for Santos Laguna on the night was their ability to play direct and quickly bypass the midfield.
The Red Bulls are well-known for their brand of soccer that puts their center backs in isolated positions with opponents’ forwards.
Aware of that, Santos Laguna head coach Salvador Reyes spoke on the gameplan post-game. Reyes said they wanted to go “one-on-one with their center backs” and he felt the front two collaborated well and opened up space for midfielders, Diego Valdes and Brian Lozano.
Diego Valdes’ Goal
As one can see on Diego Valdes’ opening goal, Julio Furch’s ability to link up put the Red Bulls center backs in instances where they needed to choose which runs to honor.
In this instance, Tim Parker must decide whether to pounce on Julio Furch as he possesses the ball or pick off Valdes’ run. But, Furch is too far away from Parker for him to make a tackle subsequently putting Aaron Long in a similar position. Valdes makes the inside run while Javier Correa’s position in-between Aaron Long and Connor Lade makes him unable to commit to Valdes right away.
Valdes’ step-over makes Aaron Long turn to his left expecting a pass to Correa, instead Valdes took the shot himself.
Salvador Reyes, continued by saying, “it is important to have two number 9’s that can try to retain the ball and create”.
Julio Furch’s Goal
This goal at first glance looks flukey. Yet on replay, it is a down-right filthy pass from Javier Correa to strike mate Julio Furch. Javier Correa spots Furch despite being almost exactly right behind him. It was an unstoppable move, but the two strikers’ presence in the box clearly gave Red Bull a lot to deal with.
This approach was expected by Chris Armas as he said post-game, “the two strikers do a good job of challenging back lines by staying close to each other, they stay high, and then they operate
underneath…They scored a goal from across and another little combination which is a good finish but it’s always a challenge when you have two clever strikers that move well and operate and they can get you behind and move underneath as well”.
Despite these two goals, the Red Bulls backline was stable while missing Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo. Sometimes no matter the flow of the game, the opponent is just deadly in front of goal and you don’t produce goals yourself. Armas added, “Each guy had a couple of good looks there. It might have been 5-8 good looks… If we get one or two of those it’s a different game but it gives us a lot of confidence going into leg two.”
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography