Following his team’s defeat, 2-0, against Club Santos Laguna at home in the first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal, New York Red Bulls’ head coach Chris Armas spoke on his team’s chances and how it the game played out.
“It’s one of the ways it goes,” Armas said in the post game press conference. “I know we’ll get chances and there’s another game where we don’t. The plan will be to play aggressive, to understand (Club Santos Laguna) now even more… we can minimize on one end and maximize on another.”
Despite the game starting with New York in the driver’s seat the Bulls could not finish any of their attempts to get passed Santos keeper Jonathan Orozco. Multiple chances from just in front of the net were saved or blocked In one particular series from the 35th minute, forward Bradley Wright-Phillips’ shot from the right side was blocked by Orozco and sent into the path of a charging Danny Royer on the left. The midfielder’s shot looked to be in, but a diving Orozco kept the ball
The visiting Liga MX side took under five shots in the first half and in total only got off nine all game. But as time went on in the first half, the pace of play and ball possession began to shift towards Santos. Less time was being played in front of Orozco and more was being battled in the middle of the pitch.
As it looked as though the teams would go into halftime tied at zero, Santos midfielder Diego Valdes took a chance from the top of the box and slammed the ball passed defender Tim Parker and goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 42nd minute.
After the intermission, New York still looked shaken and just 90 seconds in the visitors struck again. Midfielder Brian Lozano played a pass to forward Javier Correa in the box. The latter then chipped a pass to forward Julio Furch who scored from point blank past a off balance Robles.
“Going into halftime you feel like ‘it’s there for us’ because of what the first half looked like,” Armas said when talking about the goals. “Then to come out in the second half as things didn’t even really settle down and your down two to nothing, and I think it rattled us a little bit… Those are tough times to give up goals.”
For the remaining 30 minutes, New York was pulled into a physical game resulting in multiple yellow cards being doled out, three for the Bulls (Alex Muyl, Kaku, and Marc Rzatkowski) and one on Santos, including one for each after a foul caused a brief shoving skirmish in the middle of the field.
The home side began to get the fans back into it with more near chances and shots to close out the game, but none got past the excellent defense and hard working Orozco as he secured his second straight clean sheet in SCCL play.
The team now prepares for the second leg in Mexico next week on Tuesday, March 12. New York will need at least two goals to force the game into extra time. They’re not alone however, as every Major League Soccer team remaining in the competition (Atlanta United, Sporting Kansas City, and Houston Dynamo also lost their firsts leg games.
Despite the hill to climb, Armas says his team was showing confidence as soon as the final whistle blew.
“We feel good,” Armas said. “There’s good energy (in the locker room) after the game believe it or not, but there’s a lot of belief.”