The New England Revolution, come Wednesday night’s Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal match at Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City (10:15 pm ET | FS1, TUDN), know well that the ball is in Pumas UNAM’s court.
The reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield champions carved out this advantageous spot via a 3-0 win last week at a snow-filled Gillette Stadium, beating the Liga MX side behind Adam Buksa’s second-half brace.
Now, it’s about completing the job in Leg 2 and booking a semifinal spot against either CF Montréal or Liga MX’s Cruz Azul – with that round set for April.
“It’s going to be a mental exercise, because even though we’re 3-0 up, I think the group needs to just stay focused, honestly play it as if it’s 0-0,” said midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who scored the Leg 1 opener. “As the game goes on and they don’t score, we know it’s going to open up and there could be opportunities there to capitalize, but it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a really tough game.”
With the away goals rule in use, Pumas will need to score five goals to advance if the Revs get on the scoreboard. That simple fact leaves head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena expecting a challenging game, with New England looking to book their first-ever CCL semifinal spot.
“Weather conditions, last game was snowing and probably 30 degrees in Foxborough,” Arena said. “Here, it'll probably be 65 degrees at kickoff on a good field and probably a good crowd, entirely different from the scene we saw in Foxborough. Their tactics are going to change. They’re down three goals in the competition, so they'll be very aggressive and certainly in attack mode."
MLS is closer to a CCL win than ever before
To reach their goals, New England will need to rebound from a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend where they were up by two goals late before a late collapse at icy, snowy Gillette Stadium. But Lletget is confident that’s the exact wake-up call they needed to be prepared for a Pumas side that’s midtable in Mexico’s top-flight.
“It’s like the soccer gods are talking to us and preparing us for this Pumas game, because that’s something that can happen,” Lletget said of the RSL match. “That’s just the reality of this game. You lose focus for a couple minutes, let alone over 90 minutes, and things can change really fast.
“ … We’re always at a six or seven around here. We’re never too high, never too low. I think that’s another strength of ours, our mindset that we bring. I think it’s another great lesson. I think it came at a perfect time in a weird way, so it’s going to help us.”