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NYCFC top San Carlos, advance to Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals

Defender Alexander Callens scored the lone goal late in the first half as NYCFC advanced 6-3 on aggregate

HARRISON, N.J. — New York City FC’s first foray in the Concacaf Champions League will go on to at least the quarterfinals after the club easily dispatched AD San Carlos in the Round of 16 at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night.

NYCFC, which won 1-0 in the second leg, advanced 6-3 on aggregate and will play either Tigres UANL or Alianza in the next round.

“I think we needed a night like this on both ends of the ball,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “I think doing what we needed to do, being able to execute the game plan and what’s necessary to advance especially in a tournament like this against an opponent that played at home very strong. We’re going to face that going forward and in Concacaf we’re going to need to manage away games in the environments we’re going to play and then take care of business so it was really good for us.”

NYCFC entered the second leg with a comfortable 5-3 advantage following the opening leg in Costa Rica last week and deservedly went ahead in the 41st minute on Alexander Callens’ second goal of the series.

The Peruvian centerback leaped up just inside the six-yard box to connect with Alexandru Mitrita’s corner kick and, after beating San Carlos’ goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton to the ball, put a glancing header inside the far post.

The two combined in the eighth minute too, but Callens put that downward header off Pemberton and the post.

We have a lot of power and we have good deliveries,” NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. “We scored away and today we had three big goal chances in the first half in the same way. It’s very hard when you have deliveries like that. So far Callens scoring goals, doesn’t look used to it, but hopefully a bit more in the future and this can be an advantage for us.

In the 10th minute, miscommunication in the back between Johnson and center back Maxime Chanot nearly cost NYCFC. Johnson was late off his line for a through ball, thinking Chanot was going to play it. Instead, San Carlos forward Jorman Aguilar ran onto it and forced Johnson to make a save before the ball caromed out for a corner kick.

San Carlos players watch as New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) heads the ball into the net for a goal during the first half in the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Pemberton made another diving save in the 32nd minute to deny Costa Rican international Ronald Matarrita, who was played into space by Maxi Moralez.

Matarrita received a loud ovation from fans of both teams when he left the match for Sebastian Ibeagha in the 63rd minute. Moralez also came off as part of the double substitution with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who wasn’t match fit for the opening leg, making his 2020 debut.

Tajouri-Shradi nearly had his first goal in the 77th minute, stepping around a San Carlos defender along the 18-yard box before unleashing a left-footed shot that was off the mark.

Things heated up in the 82nd minute when San Carlos defender Pablo Arboine was booked for chopping down Gary Mackay-Steven in front of the NYCFC bench. Deila objected, pushing Arboine, which brought both benches together before order was restored. Deila was also booked for his escalating of the situation.

“I overreacted a little bit of course, but I reacted because of the tackle, because it was three, four seconds too late,” Deila said. “I just instinctively wanted to protect my player. I get scared that he gets injured. But I calmed down quite quick. It was a little bit South American emotions there.”

NYCFC will open its 2020 Major League Soccer campaign Sunday afternoon at Columbus Crew SC.

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