Aurelien Collin: “We’re going to come here with confidence and show what we have to do to make it to the next level.” (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls enter Thursday’s second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 series confident they will overcome Olimpia.

They will enter Red Bull Arena leading the aggregate-goal series thanks to its 1-1 draw in Costa Rica last week and a precious away goal. In a tied series, away goals are doubled, so the Honduran side must come out in attack mode for the 8 p.m. kickoff.

“They have to score if they want to go to the next level,” Red Bulls center back Aurelien Collin said at media day at RBA Tuesday. “It’s going to open even more space. … So, we’re going to come here with confidence and show what we have to do to make it to the next level.”

That next level is the quarterfinals against Tigres (Mexico). That round will be contested starting next week (first leg: March 6-8, second leg: March 13-15).

Last year the Red Bulls reached the quarters, the furthest they have gone in the competition, before they were ushered out by fellow MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC. They kicked themselves because they allowed a potential semifinal berth to slip through their fingers.

With the team taking all competitions seriously — and that includes the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup — a Round of 16 elimination would be distressing.

“It definitely would be a tough blow,” striker Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “This is one of our targets. It’s one of our goals. I don’t think an MLS team has won the championship. We want to apart of it. We want to make history. I don’t play anything for fun. I don’t just part to take part in it. I want to win things. I want the club to have memorabilia. This is why we’re here.”

A win would push the Red Bulls into the next. So would a scoreless tie. Any draw above 1-1 would mean an early exit for New York because of the away rule.

If the teams are tied after 90 minutes, there will be no extratime. They will go directly to penalty kicks.

The Red Bulls want to go deep in the competition and challenge themselves.

“It means a lot because we get to play teams from Mexico, the top teams from Mexico,” Jamaica international left back Kemar Lawrence. “It assesses where your team is at and where your team needs to be. And right now we want that. We want to play against the best teams in CONCACAF. We want to see where we’re at. We want to see if we can really push teams to play at our speed, our way, our style. We want to see if teams around the world can keep up with us when we really push the game, when we’re getting at our best.

“We look forward to winning the game on Thursday and move on further in the competition.”

Olimpia traveled without three players for the match due to visa problems. Brayan Moya, whose penalty kick equalized the first leg, won’t play as will center back Jonathan Paz, who went the entire way in the game. Dabirson Castillo, who was an unused substitute, also stayed home.

The Red Bulls enjoyed a strong first half, taking a 1-0 lead at a neutral venue, Estadio Nacional in Costa Rica, though their lack of fitness caught up to them in the final 45 minutes. That’s when Collin was called for a penalty kick and Olimpia knotted it up.

“The second half, that was the difference,” Collin said. “The line got stretched. Our game is to be compact. They were very good at stretching our lines, which put ourselves sometimes in complicated situations.”

But coming home with an away goal was so vital.

“We already did a great job in Costa Rica,” midfielder Felipe said. “It’s not an easy game. It was the first official game of the year. We showed a lot of growth from last year. This team is ready for a bigger stage. … We have a big opportunity on Thursday.

Collin felt if the Red Bulls play up to their potential, they should be fine.

“Just play our game because when we play our game, we’re very hard to beat,” he said.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at