New York Red Bulls fans are looking for somebody to blame after last night’s heartbreaking 4-2 loss to Liga MX side Santos Laguna, ousting them from the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Some may blame manager Chris Armas for his personnel decisions or for failing to adjust tactically in the second half. Others will blame the referee or Red Bulls players themselves for their lack of focus down the stretch. Personally, I blame Deiner Quinones.
Red Bulls came out of the tunnel firing on all cylinders scoring two goals in the first ten minutes. Omir Fernandez opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a smart near post run, cutting in front of the center-back and tapping in Royer’s low cross. Then Royer got himself in the mix, scoring a ninth minute goal after a nice setup from Bradley Wright-Phillips. It appeared as if RBNY had Santos Laguna on the ropes. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.
Trailing 2-0 in the match and tied 2-2 on aggregate, Manchester City loanee Marlos Moreno needed to be subbed out in the 70th minute after getting injured. Enter Deiner Quinones – a 23-year old winger/attacking midfielder who’s also on loan at Santos from Independiente Medellin. The petite Colombian was the catalyst for Santos Laguna’s second half comeback, playing a part in each of his team’s first three goals.
Quinones started the rally in the 72nd minute by finding an unmarked Jose Abella in the box, making it 2-1 and putting Santos ahead on aggregate. Four minutes later (76th minute), Quinones picks up the ball in the midfield, cuts through the heart of the Red Bulls defense and swings it out wide to Jesus Angulo on the left wing. Angulo proceeds to nutmeg right back Michael Murillo and finds Brian Lozano for a tap-in goal after splitting the center-backs on his run into the box.
Three minutes later (79th minute), Tim Parker fails to clear his line, allowing Marcelo Correa and Quinones enough space to operate a quick give-and-go into the final third. Once again, Quinones splits the Red Bulls center-backs (a common theme in this game) and is played in by Correa, finding himself 1-on-1 with Luis Robles. Robles does well to sprawl and deflect the shot attempt but the ball bounces right back to Quinones on the near post. Quinones calmly turns, picks his head up and plays a cheeky lob/flick into the box for Diego Valdes who brings it down with his chest in traffic and toe pokes it into the bottom right corner.
Brian Lozano added the final nail in Red Bulls coffin in the 81st minute after catching Robles off his line and hitting an unreal chip shot from the midfield circle to make it 4-2. Lozano received “Man of the Match” after scoring twice, but it was Deiner Quinones performance that ultimately ended New York’s CONCACAF Champions League run. Kudos to Santos manager Salvador Reyes for not panicking after his team went down 2-0 and having the gumption to bring on an out-of-form attacker. Before Tuesday night’s heroic two assist effort, Quinones had only managed one goal and one assist in 16 appearances across all competitions (Liga MX Apertura/ Clausura and CCL) for Santos Laguna.
The way CONCACAF Champions League is set up, American clubs will always be at a disadvantage considering the tournament’s Round of 16 begins during the MLS preseason schedule. Liga MX clubs and other Central American participants are already midway through their domestic campaigns when CCL kicks off. The difference in form and fitness level is clearly visible to anyone who knows soccer.
Chris Armas’ side will have to look in the mirror and pick up the pieces from a failed CONCACAF run. But they cannot dwell on the “what could have been” for too long. Now, the club’s main focus must shift to defending their MLS Supporters Shield crown and making an MLS Cup run.
Red Bulls will look to get their first win of the season this Saturday when they host the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The Earthquakes have opened the season with back-to-back losses under new coach, former Chivas Guadalajara manager Matias Almeyda.