HARRISON, N.J. – It was the New York Red Bulls' depth, including several young players, who led the way in their 3-0 win over Antigua GFC on Wednesday night in their first match of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League.
Due to some knocks and injuries suffered in Sunday’s 2-2 result at the Chicago Fire, Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch rested a number of key players with only three starters included in the Starting XI from their last league match. The rest of his lineup was the team’s depth and younger players such as 17-year old Tyler Adams, who has just 45 minutes of league play this season.
The starting midfield was very young with Homegrown products Adams, Sean Davis and Alex Muyl all under 23-years old. Muyl scored the game’s second goal and twice hit the crossbar, while Adams had a solid 78 minutes and Davis was stellar from his central position in going the distance.
At one point in the second half when midfielder Derrick Etienne made his first team debut and left back Connor Lade came into the game, the Red Bulls counted five players on the field from their academy.
“I thought overall some good performances from our young guys, another proud moment for our club I think to call on our Homegrown players and some of our young guys to step up in a very meaningful game,” Marsch said.
“I’ll say this … even when Antigua went down a man, they still pressed, they still stayed organized, they still got after the game. It wasn’t an easy match.”
Despite the lack of recent minutes for a number of Wednesday night’s starters, the Red Bulls nonetheless played attractive and fluid soccer. Also present was their trademark high-press, which strangled Antigua, playing most of the match with 10 men after Sixto Betancourt was sent off on a straight red card in the 26th minute.
The Guatemalan champions struggled to string together meaningful possession and managed just two shots on goal.
Most significantly, this younger, less-seasoned version of the Red Bulls looked and played the way the regular starters do in MLS. A number of Wednesday night’s contributors, including goalkeeper Ryan Meara, have benefitted from seeing minutes with the Red Bulls' USL team in recent weeks.
Antigua coach Mauricio Tapia didn’t see anything different from this young Red Bulls team than the side he scouted in league play over the recent weeks.
“We knew that the New York Red Bulls were a high-pressure team,” Tapia said via translation following the match. “We didn’t see anything different from what we have been following during their league [season]. We consider them a very good team.”