Luis Robles is coming off a sterling 13-save performance in CCL action. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
HARRISON, N.J. – The Red Bulls Tuesday night will try to go where not many Major League Soccer clubs have gone before — to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
They find themselves in a very good place entering the second leg of the quarterfinal series with Club Tijuana of Mexico at 8 p.m. at Red Bull Arena (Univision Deportes, streamed on go90.com, Red Bulls Radio on TuneIN).
They enjoyed a 2-0 lead after last Tuesday’s historic two-goal victory in Tijuana.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you should know that goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles stood on his head, making a career-high 13 saves, and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips tallied twice to secure the triumph.
Since the CONCACAF Champions League era began in 2008, only seven MLS teams have advanced to the semifinal round. Of those seven, only two have reached the final.
The Red Bulls’ victory broke a 21-game winless streak (0-17-4) on the road for MLS teams against Mexican clubs since 2011. New York also became only the third team in MLS history to win in Mexico in 49 matches (3-38-8). It was the first time that an MLS team recorded two goals against a Mexican club in Mexico during the CCL knockout round.
A win will boost the Red Bulls into the semis, as will a scoreless draw and a 1-1 tie and even a 1-0 or 2-1 defeat. If the teams are knotted up after regulation, they will proceed directly to a shootout to determine who survives.
Tijuana also needs at least a 3-0 road victory to advance.
“When you have these big series and big games you can almost throw records out the window and it becomes more about on the day who wants it more, whose able to execute, whose able to stay more disciplined and that will be our challenge on the day,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said.
The winner of the series will meet victor of the quarterfinal encounter between Seattle Sounders FC and Guadalajara. Seattle leads that series, 1-0, but will have to defend that lead at Guadalajara Wednesday night.
Wright-Phillips felt Tijuana will pull out all stops to win.
“I think the guys know that it’s going to be even tougher,” he said. “If I was playing on that team I’d come here with nothing to lose and try to get some goals. We’ve got to prepare for that. We’ve got to deal with what the first half is going to be like. It’s probably going to be frantic, you know? We’re going to have to ride that wave and just see it out. We’re in a good position but we’re expecting it to be a very tough game.”
BWP doesn’t think the Red Bulls should be in defensive mode from the opening kickoff.
“You don’t want to sit and absorb,” he said. “I think you’ve got to see how the game is played. We’re not built to sit back and just chill out. We’re going to make it hard for them. We’re at home. We’re normally good at home. I think the pressure is kind of on them. It’s not really on us. The pressure is on them so we’ve just got to play our game.”
New York is unbeaten across all competitions through its opening four matches, outscoring its opponents, 8-1, and has not trailed through the first 360 minutes of this year.
The Red Bulls return to MLS action, traveling to Real Salt Lake for their second regular-season match of the season at 9 p.m. Saturday.