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Red Bulls Salvage Draw in El Salvador in Champions League Action

The New York Red Bulls made the trip to San Salvador on Tuesday night for their first away match of their 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Facing Alianza FC, the two battled to a result in which the Red Bulls had to come from behind to rescue a point as they sit atop Group F after two matches.

Head coach Jesse Marsch put out a lineup that saw a blend of players from the first team and the team’s second team, New York Red Bulls II. After missing the first match against Antigua GFC, Luis Robles got the start with the likes of fellow first team regulars Sal Zizzo, Sean Davis, and Felipe. The club’s new record goal scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, in a rare move, was joined by brother Shaun, in addition to NYRB II standouts Justin Bilyeu, Derrick Etienne Jr, and Aaron Long, who was making his first team debut. Aurélien Collin, who left Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Montréal Impact with possible injury, made the starting lineup, clearly fit to play.

The Red Bulls managed a few opportunities early, earning a corner as early as the second minute, but they struggled throughout the first half. The Red Bulls found their best opportunities through set pieces, but could not manage a rhythm. Alianza managed to create a few more opportunities, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into a crucial save just a minute before the halftime whistle. The teams headed into the locker rooms at halftime without goals; the second half would prove to be different.

The Red Bulls attempted to break the deadlock early in the second half, when in the 51st minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips took a shot at goal. Alianza goalkeeper Óscar Arroyo sent the ball away for a corner kick, which Collin tried to pounce on, but the effort was fruitless. Three minutes later, Alianza were awarded a freekick yards from goal. Alexander Larín took the freekick perfectly, sending the ball into the upper corner of the goal past Robles for the 1-0 lead.

The away side retaliated in the 71st minute, when new signing Omer Damari scored his first goal in Red Bulls colors. Coming on as a substitute four minutes prior, the striker was in the right place at the right time and kicked a ball from Bilyeu past Arroyo for the equalizer. New York was on a roll following Damari’s goal, managing shots, including one from Kemar Lawrence. However, they could not convert and the match ended in a draw.

In total, the Red Bulls edged Alianza in shots, 16 to eight, and in shots on target, eight to four. It was Arroyo who was clearly the busier of the two goalkeepers, with the Alianza man having to make six saves while Robles made three. New York has four points as they top Group F, with Alianza’s one point giving them second. Antigua GFC rounds out the three team group, with zero points after one match.

The Red Bulls next head to DC United on Sunday, August 21, in MLS play before their next CONCACAF Champions League match at home to Alianza on Thursday, September 15.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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