The New York Red Bulls played Antigua FC to a scoreless draw at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City on Tuesday. With the point, the Red Bulls clinched first place in Group F and advance to the quarterfinal round.
Gonzalo Veron had the match's best scoring opportunity when his chip hit the post in the 8th minute.
The Red Bulls' next match is on Saturday, October 1 against the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena.
For the first time in club history, the Red Bulls are heading into the knockout round of the Champions League. While Group F wasn't the easiest of draws, they were able to persevere and advance with the tried and true method of "win at home and tie on the road."
Antigua played a physical match and had several chances to secure three points. The Red Bulls were further hindered by a waterlogged pitch that would stop the ball dead any time a player attempted to make a quick cut or play a long ball.
Head coach Jesse Marsch opted for another half-strength lineup, utilizing several starters and mixing in a few reserves. The most important inclusion was goalkeeper Luis Robles, who continues to make dazzling saves regardless of the opponent. It's hard to imagine that the Red Bulls would be advancing to the knockout rounds (let alone in the Champions League) without him.
Both teams had scoring opportunities, but Antigua held the edge in shots, 10-7. While the hosts were dominant in possession and appeared in control, the Red Bulls came closer to scoring. Gonzalo Veron and substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips were unlucky not to put the ball in the back of the net.
With advancement secured, the Red Bulls must now wait for other groups to finish before learning their seed and quarterfinal opponent. Following the group stage, the Champions League resumes in February, which is during the MLS preseason.
There are many questions facing the Red Bulls during the offseason, many of which involve the roster, so the next round feels like it's a long way off. The club can focus on domestic play and securing MLS Cup, but preparation for the knockout rounds should remain a priority.