Aaron Long
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The MLS best defensive team, the New York Red Bulls, will go head to head with one of the best attacking Mexican side Club Santos Laguna in the Concacaf Champions League. 

It’s always scary when two big kids in school take on each other. On that note, the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League have a thriller coming up.

The MLS best defensive club New York Red Bulls will face one of the best Mexican offensive teams, Club Santos Laguna, in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. Leg 1 will kick off on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET at the Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls didn’t allow a single goal in the Round of 16 against Club Atletico Pantoja while Santos netted a tournament-high of 11 goals versus Marathon.

Outside of the league, Santos finished the 2018 Apertura La Liga MX season as the fourth-best attacking team, scoring 27 goals in 17 matches. Meanwhile, New York had the best defense in the MLS last year, giving up 33 goals in their 34 outings of the regular season.

Head coach Chris Armas is delighted that his robust defense will face an attacking powerhouse in the Champions League.

“We love good test, this will be another one over the course of two legs so we’re looking to see how our best stuff matches up against Santos Laguna,” Armas said in a press conference.

Los Guerreros have the top scorer of the Champions League so far, Javier Correa, who notched a hat trick in the first leg versus Marathon and the second top scorer of the 2018 Apertura La Liga MX, Julio Furch.

Armas touched on how he and his defenders have more than one attacking player to worry about from their Mexican opponents.

“There’s a lot of weapons on their team,” he said. “We’ve seen them in a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2. They enjoy two forwards and that’s always tricky the way those players, Furch and Correa, how they move up the field.”

The 46-year-old coach went on to explaining how “clever” and “technical” his opponents are before talking about Furch’s movement off the ball.

“We think Furch up the field is really good,” Armas said. “We see him as a threat at all time. His awareness of space and how to run behind and come underneath is really interesting.”

RBNY have top notch defenders in all four areas of their backline to match Santos’ talented roster, with MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long at center back, Tim Parker next to him, 2018 MLS XI Kemar Lawrence on the left, and Amar Murillo on the right, a 23-year-old who played in the 2018 World Cup.

Unfortunately, Murillo is suspended for Tuesday’s encounter due to yellow card accumulations. And Lawrence recently recovered from an MCL injury. The Jamaican played for the first time in three months on Feb. 20 as he came off the bench in the 46th minute and hasn’t played since then.

If Armas decide to rest Lawrence, which is unlikely due to the seriousness of this match, the next left back in line is Amro Tarek who just played his first match in a Red Bull jersey on Saturday. As for Murillo’s, absence Connor Lade will likely replace the Panamanian.

The seven-year Red Bull man played in both legs against CAP in the Round of 16.

One step behind The Metros’ defense goalkeeper Luis Robles is in a terrific form. Robles helped his side record a 1-1 draw versus Columbus Crew in their MLS opener on Saturday, including two stunning late saves.

Despite Murillo missing the first leg and Lawrence’s fitness, New York has the tools needed to go toe to toe with Santos’ attack. We’re on for an epic CONCACAF matchup.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.