Jesse Marsch: “It’s not a pure away match, but we have to be smart on how we use our aggressiveness and make sure that we manage the game at all moments.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
All things considered, the Red Bulls can’t ask for better conditions for an away match in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Round of 16 first leg against Olimpia will be played at a neutral venue, not in Honduras. The encounter will be a closed-door match. And the weather forecast for Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica Thursday night (Univision Deportes, 10 p.m. ET) for clear skies, 69 degrees and no chance of rain.
On paper at least, the Red Bulls should have fewer obstacles as they try for a win or draw or an away goal or two, at the very least. But then again, playing on the road in Central America or Mexico in a CONCACAF competition can be a tricky issue.
“Playing in a neutral site in Costa Rica with no fans is more favorable to us than playing in Honduras,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said in a conference call Wednesday. “That being said, I think the acclimation of playing in Costa Rica will be much easier for Olimpia that for us.
“It’s not a pure away match, but we have to be smart on how we use our aggressiveness and make sure that we manage the game at all moments. And that’s what really two-leg series are about.”
The game was moved from Honduras due to political unrest in the country. It became a match without any fans because of sanctions against Olimpia.
“You can’t necessarily win the series at any one moment but often you can lose it,” Marsch added. “We have to play disciplined, concentrate on what we want to do, make it hard on them, but not be sloppy, naive or foolish in overextending ourselves because going back to RBA for the second leg certainly is an advantageous situation for us.”
Because of the political unrest, the Red Bulls decided not to scout their foes in person. Instead, the coaching staff has watched all nine of Olimpia’s matches in the Honduran Clausura — the team is in second place with a 5-0-4 mark — and Marsch is comfortable with the information he and his staff have accrued.
“We’ve gotten to know them pretty well,” he said. “They’re well coached, they’re a combative team, a good team, a talented team. We know we’re in for a big challenge, even despite the fact that they’re not playing in their home environment which obviously would make them even more difficult – we still know we’re in for a really difficult match. Anytime you come down to Central America you know you’re going to be dealing with a lot of elements working against you. But we will be disciplined, focused and prepared for everything the match will throw at us.”
The second leg is set for Red Bull Arena March 1.