The New York Red Bulls took care of business in their Concacaf Champions League opener Wednesday night, defeating host Atlético Pantoja 2-0 in the Round of 16 first leg at Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo.
Following a first-half own goal, Danny Royer tacked on an insurance tally in the 67th minute as New York take a pair of away goals back to Red Bull Arena, where they will look to close out the series next Wednesday night.
On the horizon appears to be a tasty quarterfinal tie against Mexico’s Santos Laguna. The Liga MX side thrashed Marathon from Honduras 6-2 in the opening leg in San Pedro Sula.
The Red Bulls got the critical away goal in the 39th minute on a Pantoja own goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips latched onto a ball Royer headed back into the mix and fired a first-time shot from the edge of the six. The ball ricocheted off the heads of Pantoja goalkeeper Odalis Baez and midfielder Jean Innocent before landing in the net.
The goal came after a flurry of chances for the visitors, including Royer’s low shot on frame that Baez did well to parry away in the 25th minute.
Two minutes later, Wright-Phillips slipped behind the Pantoja defense for a point-blank chance that Baez swatted away. Kaku put the rebound onto frame, but it was cleared off the line.
On the half-hour, Royer was played behind on a Kaku chip. He turned and fired, but Baez did well to race off his line and knock the attempt away.
The Red Bulls made one change at the break, with Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence replacing Connor Lade, who finished the first half following a nasty clash of heads that forced him off briefly for treatment.
Royer made it 2-0 in the 67th minute to cap a well-worked sequence. It started with Marc Rzatkowski slipping the ball to Kaku. The Paraguayan international lofting an inch-perfect right-footed cross to a wide-open Royer, who settled and slammed home at the back post.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) February 21, 2019
Three minutes after Omir Fernandez came off the bench for Alex Muyl, the homegrown midfielder nearly scored on his first-team debut. Aaron Long took a touch around a defender along the endline and fed to Fernandez, who put his attempt on frame. But Baez knocked it away.
Royer then chipped over an onrushing Baez, but his shot landed wide of the empty net and substitute Brian White just missed a late chance to make it 3-0.
The only negative on the night for the Red Bulls was a 66th minute yellow card by Michael Amir Murillo that could haunt the club going forward. In the CCL, a player is suspended after accumulating a pair of yellow cards in any two games leading up to the final.