Action from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game between the host New York Red Bulls (white jersey) and Antigua GFC on August 3, 2016. (Photo: Mexsport)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- Within a four-day span, the New York Red Bulls can achieve two major objectives.
As a result of Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the Impact de Montreal, they clinched a berth in the Major League Soccer playoffs for the seventh year in a row and moved into the Eastern Conference lead.
With a draw or a win in Group F at Guatemala’s Antigua GFC on Tuesday, New York can book its first trip to the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The Red Bulls did not go overboard celebrating domestic success with so much still at stake internationally.
"We've got another big accomplishment that we're just knocking on the door on," Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. "So we have to make sure that in all ways we enjoy this, but that we prepare ourselves for Tuesday, knowing that it won't be easy going down there and that we have to find a way to advance.
"It would be a big week for our club if we could make the playoffs and solidify our quarterfinal [spot]."
New York (2W-1D-0L, 7 points) can clinch the group crown against Antigua (0-1-1, 1) after eliminating Alianza (0-2-1, 2) on the strength of a 1-0 home triumph last week.
"It's the most important game of the season," commented Red Bulls captain and midfielder Dax McCarty. "That's how we look at it, honestly. It's a big goal of the club. We want to make it to the knockout round of the competition and see how far we can take it next year. So a huge game down in Guatemala."
With Marsch making only two late substitutions Saturday, the Red Bulls’ regulars did not get much rest.
"It's another challenge for us," the 29-year-old McCarty finished. "We're going to need our depth to step up. We didn't make too many subs, so we're going to need guys who are fresh to step up and go down there and win that game for us. Just another big test for our character."