For 70 minutes, the New York Red Bulls were on the precipice of a historic Concacaf Champions League comeback on Mexican soil.
Down 2-0 on aggregate, goals from Omir Fernandez and Daniel Royer within nine minutes of the opening whistle drew the club level with Santos Laguna. Then, with the match on track to go to penalties with 20 minutes left, Santo had a belligerent nine-minute spell of their own.
The Liga MX side scored four goals, putting an end to the Red Bulls dream of a comeback.
"It's disappointing," Aaron Long said after match. "To be so close to such a great feat and watch it slip through your fingers is tough. As defenders, we have to take that on our shoulders. We can't let four goals go in. It doesn't matter who's on the field, it doesn't matter if it's the last 15 minutes, it doesn't matter if we have nine men: Our defenders are too good to let four goals go in. That's on us."
The Red Bulls had hoped to become the first MLS team to win the CCL. Now, eliminated in the quarterfinals, the team will turn to their MLS campaign.
"For a group this competitive, and an organization that wants to be as successful as possible, it hurts," Luis Robles admitted. "When we say that we want to win everything, there's authenticity to those statements. For it to end the way that it did, it's bitter. It's disappointing. And yet, it's the beginning of the season. There's so much to play for."
Santos' final goal was a strike from Brian Lozano from 10-yards inside his own half. Robles tips his cap.
"What a fourth goal, I'm going to remember that one for a while," Robles admitted.
At the end of the day, it's still just March. The Red Bulls have played one MLS game. The disappointment is real, but head coach Chris Armas is excited for what the club's latest CCL run will mean to them.
"We take with us another experience what these games are like, what real games are like against top players with different qualities," head coach Chris Armas said. "That exposure is invaluable. We'll take this with us, we'll add it to the core to who we are and it'll pay dividends down the stretch."