Red Bulls On Verge Of History

USA Today

Red Bull New York is just a point, or FIFA ruling, away from earning their place among the 16 best soccer teams in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

With Thursday night’s thrilling 1-0 victory over Alianza, the Red Bulls took command of Group F in the CONCACAF Champions League. With seven points, and just one match remaining in the group stage, the organization is on the verge of advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in their 21-year history.

Through 89 minutes at Red Bull Arena, both clubs had their share of excellent chances, and, each time, their goalkeepers were up to the task. It took a 90th minute stunner from substitute Sacha Kljestan to send New York to the precipice of continental recognition.

“It’s important, we wanted to make the quarterfinals,” said the midfielder. “That was an important goal at the beginning of the season so right now we have one foot in the door and I’m pretty happy.”

Goalkeeper Luis Robles, who made remarkable saves throughout the night, was thrilled with the Red Bulls’ position. “Tonight was a good night, it was fun. Obviously the win was huge,” said that match’s captain.

Speaking about the potential of making the knockout rounds, Robles continued, “We’ve put ourselves in a great position. That was our goal from the very beginning, was to advance because this organization has never been to the knockout round.”

New York (2-0-1) won both home matches this round. In their Champions League opener, New York handed Guatemalan league winner Antigua a 3-0 defeat at home. While in El Salvador last month, the Red Bulls drew Alianza 1-1. Their fourth and final group match is scheduled for September 27th in Guatemala. However, there’s a very real possibility that New York could win all three points and reach the quarterfinals without ever taking the pitch.

The Guatemalan Football Federation is about to be suspended by FIFA for internal violations relating to an oversight committee (irony, it’s a helluva thing). Should FIFA suspend the federation, it’s unclear whether or not its domestic teams, including Antigua, will be allowed to partake in international tournaments.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding their group stage finale, it’s clear the Red Bulls have their sights set on a place much higher than the quarterfinals. “Of all the teams I’ve played on,” said Robles, “this team is best prepared for the playoffs.”