Game: New York Red Bulls vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.
Date: Tuesday, March 5th
Time: 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central, 5:00 p.m. Pacific, 12:00 a.m. UTC
Venue: Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.)
How they got here: New York is here by having the best aggregate record in Major League Soccer over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. They defeated Dominican Republic champions Atlético Pantoja by a 5-0 aggregate. Santos is participating by virtue of winning the 2018 Liga MX Apertura. They defeated Honduran champions CD Marathón by an 11-2 aggregate.
Santos Laguna has been playing regular soccer since the first week of January, compiling a 4W 2D 3L record and sitting in sixth in Liga MX. The New York Red Bulls by contrast played their first league match on Saturday, and due to the 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew SC are in a five way tie for fourth in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conferece. Advantage Santos, right?
Not so fast.
Santos has had a rough few days, first losing 3-0 to León on Saturday and then having their flight to Newark cancelled due to the snowstorm that hit the United States East Coast Sunday night. This caused a practice in New Jersey to be cancelled, which would help the club adjust to the difference in altitude (León is at roughly 6,000 feet, while Harrison, New Jersey is at roughly 20 feet) and temperature (it was 86F in León on Saturday, while the game-time temperature in Harrison will be near 20F).
Still, Santos are a good team that should be able to come out of this in a position where the game at Estadio Corona TSM next Tuesday will be meaningful. Red Bulls are a good team too, but having only three competitive games since November 29th is still not something that can be overcome easily. Both teams will have obstacles to overcome in their quest to become Concacaf Champions.