Jesse Marsch is aware that the New York Red Bulls will be playing from a position of strength when they face Tijuana in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup Tuesday night (8 pm ET, UDN, go90.com).
They will be home at Red Bull Arena. The head coach will have a full complement of players, which he called a “luxury.” It will be cold, the kind of weather he knows “favors” the Red Bulls. And Tijuana hasn’t been particularly good on the road.
But Marsch is also aware that, in the end, all of those factors may not matter.
“If you want to be naive, you can say we have a lot of things working in our favor,” the Red Bulls coach told reporters Monday. “But when you have these big series and big games, you can almost throw records out the window and it becomes more on the day who wants it more, who’s able to execute, who’s able to stay more disciplined. That will be our challenge on the day.”
The Red Bulls certainly were up to the challenge in last week's opening leg when they stunned the Xolos 2-0 to become the first MLS team to win a Knockout Round match in Mexico.
But despite the luxury of picking up two away goals, Marsch will implore his team to attack the game and not rely on their two-goal advantage, the crowd or the weather.
“Whatever the outcome will be, I know it won’t be for the lack of our team going after it,” Marsch said. “That’s a really comforting feeling for a coach going into big games.”
Marsch added that since last year, he believes the club’s identity is rooted in playing “brave” soccer by going after things. Bradley Wright-Phillips, who delivered a brace in the opening leg, agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“You don’t want to sit and absorb,” said the striker, who turned 33 on Monday. “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."
If the Red Bulls can survive, it will be just the third time an MLS team has advanced against a Liga MX opponent in a knockout series since the CCL began in 2008. Toronto and Seattle, of course, will then have their own opportunities to potentially join them in the semifinals.
“This isn’t the first time MLS teams have beaten Mexican teams,” Marsch said. “What we want do be different about this year is to actually win the series. If we can get three MLS teams to emerge in this tournament, I think it would be big statement for league and an important one for the sport in our country.”