It was one of those nights for Kaku and the Red Bulls. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. — As a sage baseball catcher once noted, “It aint’t over ’til it’s over.”
Yet, for all intents and purposes, the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal between the Red Bulls and Santos Laguna could be just about over.
The Mexican side stunned the Red Bulls with two away goals to register a 2-0 victory in the first leg before a sparse crowd at Red Bull Arena Tuesday night.
The Red Bulls will try for a major upset in the second leg next Tuesday night in Mexico, a country where Major League Soccer teams have struggled to obtain positive results over the years.
It wasn’t as if the Red Bulls performed poorly, especially in the opening half. They dominated play and had more scoring chances — quantity and quality — but could not solve goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, who was magnificent.
Goals by Diego Valdes and Julio Furch on either side of halftime boosted Santos Laguna, while the hosts squandered two superb first-half scoring opportunities.
Only four minutes into the match, Orozco denied Bradley Wright-Phillips, who raced in 1 v 1 on his foe.
Orozco was up to the task in the 35th minute as he stopped Daniel Royer’s point-blank attempt.
Buoyed by their keeper’s performance, Valdez, off a Furch feed, solved Luis Robles as he drilled an 18-yard shot into the lower left corner to lift the visitors into a one-goal lead in the 42nd minute.
Barely two minutes after the break, Furch put the Red Bulls in a two-goal disadvantage, tapping home a Javier Correa pass from the right side.
Orozco put an exclamation point on his clean sheet, as he thwarted BWP yet again in the 90th minute. This time the English striker fired a close-range shot that the Mexican keeper parried over the net for a corner kick.
Two minutes into injury time, Santos Laguna defender Jose Abella denied second-half substitute Derrick Etienne in front of the net off a Kaku feed.