New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps | Champions League QFs, 1st Leg

New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - February 22, 2017 - CCL Match Image

New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals, 1st Leg
Red Bull Arena - Harrison, NJ
Wednesday, Feb. 22 - 8 pm ET
WATCH: Univision Deportes Network in USA; Facebook

Major League Soccer will be guaranteed a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals when the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls clash in a home-and-home series which starts at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday (8 pm ET) and wraps up at BC Place in Vancouver on Thursday, March 2 (10 pm ET). It’s the first time either club has advanced this far in the continental tournament.

While the Red Bulls were the top team in MLS’s Eastern Conference in 2016, the Whitecaps missed out on the MLS Cup Playoffs in the West. However, the roles were reversed in the CONCACAF Champions League, where Vancouver steamrolled through the CCL group stage with a perfect 4-0 record (10 goals scored, 2 conceded) to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinals, while the Red Bulls enter as the No. 8 seed (2-0-2 record; 5 goals for, 1 against).

All-Time Series

Vancouver, who are unbeaten in three visits to Red Bull Arena (2-0-1), lead the all-time series with a 3-1-3 record. The lone Whitecaps loss came in the most recent meeting on Sept. 3, 2016 at BC Place as a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal decided it.

NY-VAN All-Time Meetings (7 matches since May 28, 2011):

  • at Red Bull Arena (3 meetings): Vancouver lead 2-0-1 (5-3 in goals)
  • at BC Place in Vancouver (3 meetings): Series tied 1-1-1 (Vancouver lead 5-3 in goals)
  • at Empire Field in Vancouver (1 meeting): 1-1 draw on May 28, 2011

New York Red Bulls

After an offseason which saw the club’s captain (Dax McCarty) and sporting director (Ali Curtis) depart, the Red Bulls will be eager to finally shift the spotlight to the field for a game head coach Jesse Marsch called “our biggest match of the season.” But as early as Monday, Marsch also admitted his group is not top at fitness and that “in many ways, we don’t feel totally prepared.”

  • Suspended: D Kemar Lawrence (Yellow card accumulation)
  • Int’l Duty: MF Tyler Adams (US U-20s)
  • Injury Report: MF Mike Grella (arthroscopic left knee surgery on Jan. 30), DF Justin Bilyeu (broken metacarpal bone in his hand) and MF Alex Muyl (facial fractures Feb. 3 vs. Revolution) are all available for the match, according to the club. Fullback Connor Lade (recovery from torn right ACL) and center back Gideon Baah (recovery from broken right tibia) haven’t appeared in preseason.
  • Desert Diamond Cup: Five players are with an RBNY reserve team at a preseason tournament in Arizona— FW Brandon Allen, MF Arun Basuljevic, GK Rafael Diaz, GK Evan Louro, DF Hassan Ndam

Projected starting XI (4-2-2-2): Luis Robles — Sal Zizzo, Aurelien Collin, Aaron Long, Justin Bilyeu — Felipe, Sean Davis — Sacha Kljestan, Daniel Royer — Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gonzalo Veron

Notes: With Damien Perrinelle only re-signing on Jan. 25 and arriving late in preseason camp (he is yet to appear in a match), reigning USL Defender of the Year Aaron Long has claimed the center back position during preseason, and Marsch predicts the 24-year-old will “emerge this year as a regular starter” ... Justin Bilyeu has seen the bulk of minutes at left back during preseason, but Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence is back and available after playing for the Reggae Boyz in a friendly on Feb. 16 in Houston.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Consistent scoring was the Whitecaps’ most glaring issue last year and they looked to have addressed it by signing three-time MLS All-Star Fredy Montero. But the Colombian forward, who only just joined the club on February 15, was confirmed not to be traveling to the East Coast as he seeks to build his fitness for Leg 2 on March 2. Montero's last competitive action came in October 2016.

  • Suspended:None
  • Int’l Duty:None
  • Injury Report: Christian Bolaños (knee), David Edgar (right knee PCL, MCL and meniscus), Nicolas Mezquida (hip), Yordy Reyna (left foot metatarsal fracture on Feb. 15 and surgery Feb. 21)

Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): David Ousted — Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey — Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson — Alphonso Davies, Kekuta Manneh, Giles Barnes — Erik Hurtado

Notes: Manager Carl Robinson, a former member of the Red Bulls (2010-11), faces three big decisions: (1) whether rookie Jake Nerwinski gets the nod over veteran Sheanon Williams at right back; (2) whether it’s Russell Teibert or the more physically imposing Andrew Jacobson in central midfield alongside Matias Laba; and (3) who starts at central forward — Kekuta Manneh, Erik Hurtado or even Giles Barnes.