Luis Robles: “The guys within that locker room know that is a big opportunity for us to not only show our league, but this part of the of the world, what we’re all about.” (Photo courtesy of the Red Bulls)
HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls find themselves in the driver’s seat as they enter the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series Wednesday night.
Heck, they don’t even have to win the 8 p.m. game at Red Bull Arena against Atletico Pantoja to reach the quarterfinals. A draw ill boost them into the next round and even a 1-0 and 2-1 defeat will mean a positive result in the aggregate goals series.
That’s the advantage the Red Bulls enjoyed entering the match, after securing a 2-0 win in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic last Wednesday.
Despite the decent lead, New York doesn’t sound overconfident.
“It’s a big game for our organization because this tournament gives us an opportunity to show our region, what we’re all about,” Red Bulls captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles said.
The Red Bulls have plenty of motivation after losing in last year’s CCL semifinals to Chivas USA>
“I know last year we went on a nice run and fell a little short,” Robles said. “So for us, we want to maintain that same level of success and push it even further this year.”
Weather forecasts has the game time temperature predicted at 29 degrees with a 25 percent chance of precipitation, compared to 79 degrees in Santo Domingo.
Someone mentioned to Red Bulls captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles that it would be a little bit cold at RBA.
“Little bit cold?” he asked. “I can’t imagine our friends from the Dominican would describe [Wednesday] as little cold.”
The Red Bulls could use that to their advantage.
Yet, midfielder Kaku indicated the team isn’t going to change strategy.
“We’re going about it the same we have been,” he said. “We have a lead and we want to continue to grow that lead by scoring goals to try and finish off the series and then think about what comes next.”
That would be the team’s season opener at Columbus Crew SC Saturday and the CCL quarterfinals (first leg on March 5-7, the second leg on March 12-14) and perhaps beyond.
“Yes, of course we want to win it,” Kaku said. “We want to advance as far as possible, and we have to try and be our best selves, continue to play within the system and philosophy that we played with last season, which I think went well for us. But we just need to pay a little more attention to the details to not have what happened last year against Chivas.”
The brass ring at the end of the CCL rainbow would be a gold medal as the best club team in Concacaf and a spot in the Club World Cup in December. If the Red Bulls can run the CCL table, they would become the first Major League Soccer side to win the confederation competition.
“The guys within that locker room know that is a big opportunity for us to not only show our league, but this part of the of the world, what we’re all about,” Robles said. “Also, who wouldn’t want to play in the Club World Cup, here’s an opportunity for us to be the first MLS team. And that’s a challenge that we willingly accept.”