HARRISON, N.J. – To get the result they needed, the New York Red Bulls had to bend but not break at times in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Club Tijuana at Red Bull Arena, a victory that sees them through to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Tijuana seized an early lead and hit the post twice in the first half as they enjoyed the bulk of possession. There were plenty of gut-check moments as the Red Bulls fell behind 1-0, and again in the second half when Xolos carved out several dangerous chances with the score at 1-1.
But RBNY always found a way to respond, even as they sometimes had to hang on during the match’s opening stages.
“I think that today we came out with an edge. Internally within the locker room, we were determined to get a result today no matter what the circumstances were,” said midfielder Tyler Adams, who leveled the game at 1-1 in the 28th minute.
“We knew we weren’t going to come out there and play scared. Obviously [everyone] knows our philosophy. Tijuana knew what they were going to get today and that’s exactly what we gave them. I think for us personally, moving on and being the first MLS team to advance – beating a Mexican team – feels pretty special. We know we have something special brewing in the locker room but we also know we have a lot to improve on.”
At times, the match wasn’t pretty for the home side, yet they kept their composure to claim an historic achievement. Not only was RBNY’s series win just the third time ever a Mexican club has fallen to an MLS side in the CCL knockout stages, but it also marked the first time in club history the Red Bulls have advanced to the tournament’s semifinal stage.
Club Tijuana head coach Diego Cocca lamented his team’s errors and missed opportunities, but gave credit to the Red Bulls for grinding out two impressive wins against his side.
“Yes, it’s a team that plays very well on the counter, very quick, is very organized. In these types of competitions, in these matches, you can’t make a lot of mistakes. Otherwise you won’t make it through,” Cocca said.
“We made a lot of mistakes and we paid for it.”
Impressively, the Red Bulls didn’t hang their heads when they went down early and Tijuana continued to press for a second goal to level the score on aggregate. Adams’ goal was pivotal not just because it made for an uphill battle for Tijuana, but because it spurred the Red Bulls to finally display their usual brand and style.
Jesse Marsch’s team pressed, counter-pressed and began to move forward in numbers and spread the field.
“I can’t say that we started that way, but there is a resiliency within this group and there is a deep belief that we can accomplish big things,” captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “It started in preseason just the way that we were able to find our fitness quickly, and I think the one thing that is very apparent is that there is a lot of football in this group. There’s the guys that really understand how we want to play and all committed to the way Jesse wanted to play.”