New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins (right) attempts to shoot against host Antigua GFC in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match on September 27, 2016, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. (Photo: Mexsport)
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- Check one important item off the New York Red Bulls' 2016 wish list: reaching the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The Major League Soccer side accomplished that feat with a scoreless Group F draw at Antigua GFC on Tuesday. It was not the most scintillating display by the Red Bulls this season, but it may have been the most rewarding.
"We made history tonight," said goalkeeper Luis Robles, who registered his second clean sheet – New York’s third – of the competition. "I'm proud of these guys because we made a big step. We made it to the knockout phase, getting somewhere where this organization has never been before. I think it’s about time that CONCACAF sees what the New York Red Bulls are all about."
In capturing the group title, the Red Bulls went unbeaten with a 2W-2D-0L mark, scoring five goals and surrendering only one.
"It's a huge moment for the club," head coach Jesse Marsch remarked. "They showed a lot of character and again proved what we've been all about."
Both teams had to overcome difficult field conditions due to heavy rains.
"The field was really swampy," noted defender Aaron Long. "We could play on only certain parts of the pitch, so it made the game really ugly for sure. But we stuck to the game plan and got it done."
Progressing to the quarterfinals, though, is far from the ultimate goal for the Red Bulls, who host the Philadelphia Union in a key Saturday game that will help determine MLS playoff seeding.
"We made our goals this season to advance to the knockout stage," Robles finished. "So for us to be able to check that goal off is great, but we're going to have an incredible experience in the knockout stage. I really don't care who we play, whether it's a Mexican team or someone else. It's a great opportunity for us to continue to show our quality."