Daniel Royer scored the Red Bulls’ lone goal Thursday night. (Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Despite dominating Olimpia for a good portion of the match, the Red Bulls could manage only a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 series Thursday night.
Daniel Royer scored to give New York a precious away goal, but Brayan Moya converted a penalty kick in the 73rd minute to equalize for the Honduran side in a closed-door match at Estadio Nacional.
The game was played here because of a shaky political situation in Honduras. No crowd was allowed to watch in the stadium due to a fan incident at an Olimpia match in the CONCACAF League last year. That there were no hostile spectators and that the pitch was in pristine condition certainly did not hurt the Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls will host their foes in the second leg at Red Bull Arena Thursday, March 1.
The Red Bulls were happy with their overall performance, but felt they could have walked out of the venue with a shutout.
“It’s good that we scored the away goal but I think we could’ve made a better result today,” Royer said. “When you see the 90 minutes, I think you can see there is more possible. We could’ve scored more goals. We wanted a clean sheet, we couldn’t make that happen.”
New York’s fitness caught up with the squad in the second half.
“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,” head coach Jesse Marsch said.
While Olimpia had nine games under its belt in the Honduran Clausura, the Red Bulls looked like the superior side in the opening half.
They took the first two shots of the match — Sean Davis fired from distance wide left and Aurelien Collin headed a Davis corner kick over the net — as New York made life miserable for Olimpia by pressuring their foes.
Less than a minute after he sent a 12-yard shot wide right, Royer latched onto a pass by Bradley Wright-Phillips on the right flank. Royer split two defenders and headed the ball past Honduran international goalkeeper Donis Escober for a 1-0 advantage on the half hour.
“I just noticed that Bradley got the ball and there was some space behind the defenders,” Royer said. “I tried to open up and get in there. Obviously a great cross from Bradley and I just tried to get my head on and I’m lucky it went in.”
Needing at least a goal to get back in the game and series, Olimpia woke up in the second half and came close to equalizing in the 50th minute.
Carlos Costly twice tested goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 50th minute as he managed to knock the ball out of harm’s way.
Olimpia continued to apply pressure on the Red Bulls as Gerson Rodas fired wide left four minutes later.
The Red Bulls could not hold the lead as center back Aurelien Collin took down Michaell Chirinos in the penalty area.
“We make a mistake on the penalty by taking down Chirinos,” Marsch said.
Moya converted the ensuing penalty as he caught Robles diving the wrong way as he shot into the left corner in the 73rd minute.
A pair of acquisitions made their Red Bulls debut as second-half substitutes — Marc Rzatkowski for Royer and Carlos Rivas for Davis.